THE CORNELL UNIVERSITY POLICE DEPARTMENT’S jaywalking crackdown demonstrated its capacity to raise attention and increase enforcement around a single issue. However, the manner in which it conducted the crackdown will likely do little to decrease jaywalking in the long-term and obfuscated CUPD’s intent behind the initiative.
It is understandable that CUPD wants to put some sort of emphasis on jaywalking. In 2009, there were nine “personal injury accidents” on campus and in 2010, the number of incidents doubled to 18. So far this year, there have been nine such accidents on campus. These accidents are certainly preventable and students should be reminded to be more careful in the crosswalks and abide by the law.
But CUPD’s 143-ticket spectacle on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week is no way to educate the campus about potential pedestrian dangers and the law. In fact, many students believed the initiative to be preposterous. Though it may help raise attention around the issue in the coming weeks, the lessons will likely be forgotten in the next few months, and certainly over the course of the next few years.
The initiative was ultimately an excessive display of authority that fostered animosity between Cornell police and individuals on campus. This was marked by the arrest of an elderly man for disorderly conduct when he became enraged after receiving a ticket. CUPD appeared as a police force “out to get” individuals, rather than one present to protect the community.
The jaywalking campaign showed CUPD’s ability to draw major attention to a single issue –– an ability they should use in the future to better inform the community about other lesser-known campus laws and individual rights. Moving forward, however, Cornell police should think more carefully about campus perception as they pursue these goals.