CENTRAL POINT — Police and school officials hope that some jaywalking citations and their efforts to educate Crater High School students on pedestrian safety and good manners will encourage better relations between the school and adjacent neighborhoods.
Central Point Police Chief Jon Zeliff said his department has fielded calls from angry residents about Crater kids littering, loitering, shouting obscenities and throwing everything from trash to insults at passing motorists ever since he came to the department four years ago.
Zeliff said complaints increased in recent weeks, and he ordered officers to cite students who violated pedestrian laws. He said jaywalking is not the primary issue, but citing students for violating state pedestrian laws — at $97 per offense in most cases — was a means to an end.
"The improper positioning is not the only issue we're dealing with," Zeliff said Thursday, "but it provided us with a particular tool for solving a much broader problem of livability for the neighbors."
Zeliff said announcements were made at Crater before any students were cited, and officers informed students on roadways during lunch breaks.
Days later, two dozen citations, with fines ranging from $97 to $250, were issued to students who failed to comply with state laws for pedestrians.
Over the coming weeks, police officials hope to offer a diversion program through the local courts, exchanging attendance in a pedestrian safety class for a waiver of citations. If students have no other violations during the current school year, the tickets could be dismissed in June.
A pedestrian safety class scheduled for Feb. 4 as part of the diversion program.
On Thursday, a group of eight boys smirked at School Resource Officer Dan Brown as they sauntered down North First Street in the middle of the road. Nearby, a group of students cut across a busy roadway far from any intersection, causing one vehicle stop abruptly.
Brown approached another group of students and asked if they'd heard of the pedestrian safety announcements made at Crater. Most responded with blank stares, and a pair of students shrugged their shoulders. Several admitted they'd been told by teachers.
Down the road, sophomore Tyler Baker made his way back from lunch with friends.
The 15-year-old said several of his friends had been cited and he himself had received a warning about disorderly conduct for causing a vehicle to stop in traffic. He said he felt citations, while encouraging some change, were "still not cool."
"Before, kids would just walk across the street without looking. Now they're trying to stay on the sidewalks more," he said.
"I know we shouldn't break any laws but my friend got a ticket just for going around a trash can," he said. "I don't think you should get tickets for nothing."
Sophomore Joseph Frison, recently cited for walking in the roadway, said he planned to fight his $97 ticket at court in February.
"I think the police should crack down on people for something real," he said, "but not for walking down a sidewalk. I don't think it's fair."
Kim Bean, whose son was one of the two dozen cited, took a ride-along offer with Brown to witness some of the behaviors that led to neighbors' complaints.
"I think there is a major safety issue there," Bean said, "but I think there's possibly a more effective way to deal with this, which is not necessarily ticketing all the kids in one day out of frustration.
"An announcement was made in October and then all of a sudden they're citing the kids," Bean said. "Anybody who is around teenagers knows that repetition is the way it works. You can't expect them to remember anything from the beginning of this week, let alone several months ago."
Bean said she felt school district officials should print a "price list" for various pedestrian offenses in student handbooks that are provided to parents each year.
Few neighbors were available Thursday to comment on the crackdown. One woman described problems caused by students, ranging from blocked roadways to foul language directed at motorists, but she declined to be identified out of fear of student retaliation.
Brown said he and other officers were focusing on educating students rather than pushing for more citations, but citations would continue if rules are not followed.
Mike Meunier, principal of the Crater's School of Business Innovation and Science, said he hoped educating students would improve the situation.
"Every year, off and on, we get complaints from neighbors that range from littering to students walking down the center of the road," he said. "I think the thing that's important is it does happen, but we've got about 1,500 kids on campus and almost all of them are extremely respectful of neighbors and traffic and cars.
"But we always hate to see the community voicing concerns about something to do with our students," he said.
Zeliff said he hoped education would prove more effective than writing more citations.
"The whole idea is to educate them and turn those (students who were cited) into messengers who will tell other kids," Zeliff said.
"For us this is about livability for the neighbors and safety for students."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at email@example.com.