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Is It Time for the LAPD to Ease Up on Jaywalking Tickets?

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When I first moved to Los Angeles a few years ago, I dashed across the street downtown not long after the "don't walk" sign began flashing. A woman on the other side of the crosswalk called me out: I was going to get a ticket if I kept doing that.

That was my first clue that the rules are a little different for pedestrians in Los Angeles than other big cities. Sure, laws against jaywalking are technically on the books in other cities, but here police pay special attention to pedestrians breaking the rules. Downtown blogger Brigham Yen has asked: is it time for the LAPD to stop handing out so many jaywalking tickets?

For someone who jaywalks whenever I am in Manhattan, I’ve always found it liberating and even empowering as a pedestrian to cross a street wherever and whenever I felt it was safe to do so. The process is simple: You look down the usual one way street, and if there are no cars coming, you cross. Even though it is technically illegal to jaywalk in New York, thousands upon thousands do it daily in Manhattan, adding to a sense of “urban legitimacy” because of the power of choice given to pedestrians and free will to roam.

LAPD says that jaywalking tickets are about protecting pedestrian safety, like when it launched a crackdown on jaywalking during the holiday season in 2010. But the LAPD's crackdown on jaywalking was—at least at one point—part of a broader policy push by City Hall. When the city launched its "Safer City" initiative aimed at cracking down on crime in Skid Row, about 1,000 tickets a month were given to mostly homeless Angelenos for jaywalking and loitering around downtown.Yen wonders if as downtown development gets denser and even more Manhattan-esque, LAPD might take a cue from the NYPD and turn a blind eye.