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Caught in the CROSSWALK

“We promise you won’t get run down.”

With those reassuring words from Hillsboro Police Department Lt. Mike Rouches last Thursday morning, Barley — the mascot for the Hillsboro Hops baseball team — began his first adventure in law enforcement.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Hillsboro Police Department Lt. Mike Rouches enjoys some levity with Hops mascot Barley and Ariel Wagner, director of community relations for the Hillsboro Hops organization, before Barley began serving as a pedestrian decoy in a police safety activity at the corner of Lincoln Street and Third Avenue in downtown Hillsboro.

Barley had been requested for an undercover role, posing as a hapless pedestrian who could get run over if motorists did not follow the law and stop for someone — or something, in this case — stepping into a crosswalk.

Time after time, with several police officers waiting behind buildings and bushes to provide backup, Barley stepped into a crosswalk at the intersection of Third Avenue and Lincoln Street. It was all part of an effort to increase the awareness of motorists who might not be paying attention to the law that requires motorists to stop when someone steps into a crosswalk and wait until the person reaches the other side.

For more than an hour on Thursday, Barley worked with Brandi Gilbert, a crime prevention specialist with the HPD’s Community Enhancement Team. Gilbert pointed out that traffic safety was a major focus of the team’s work.

Gilbert and Barley took turns walking back and forth in the crosswalk at Third and Lincoln to make sure drivers complied with traffic rules.

“Traffic issues are the number one livability issue I hear about from neighborhoods,” said Gilbert, who has worked with HPD for the past two years. “We talk to school and community groups on community safety, and we do lots of these (crosswalk awareness) campaigns.”

Supported by a $4,500 grant through the Oregon Department of Transportation, HPD set up awareness/enforcement campaigns on four consecutive Thursdays, with the final one coming Aug. 22.

“The grant pays for overtime costs for extra officers who come in to do the enforcement, so we don’t have to take officers off the street,” explained Julie Keys, a police program specialist who oversees the safety grants.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Barley, the mascot of the Hillsboro Hops minor league baseball team, prepares to go into a crosswalk as a decoy pedestrian during a crosswalk safety program sponsored by the Hillsboro Police Department last week. Behind Barley, Officer Scott Hanley watches from his motorcycle to make sure motorists stop.

Keys pointed out that Hillsboro’s pedestrian safety campaign has a stellar reputation among law enforcement agencies statewide.

“Our program is well thought of, and our officers teach other departments how to run these programs. Other agencies will contact us for help to set up their pedestrian safety details,” Keys said.

The program is geared toward making motorists aware of the law, Keys said.

“It’s educational. It’s not meant to penalize people financially,” she explained.

“The focus is on awareness, not on getting people,” Rouches added. “That’s how we are with traffic enforcement in general. It’s about awareness. The Hillsboro way is education. If someone needs to get a ticket, that’s what we’ll do. But our focus is education.”

To emphasize the point, Rouches noted that during last Thursday’s operation, officers made 34 traffic stops of drivers who did not fully follow the law regarding crosswalks. Of those 34, 19 were given citations — for $260 — while 15 motorists received only warnings.

“We want people to think about this, especially with school starting in two weeks,” Rouches said.

Rouches added that once school gets under way again, there will be a new emphasis on safety with school buses.

“We need to get people back into the flow of what is going on in our city,” he said. “It’s not just for cars stopping, but also how to educate pedestrians. People think they can cross wherever, and not pay attention or they are on their device.”

Keys said the participation by Barley provides a huge boost in getting people to be more aware of pedestrians.

“I’ve been doing these details for many years, and it has been hard to get people to pay attention to this,” Keys said. “Having Barley here helps create attention, and we really appreciate it.”

Ariel Wagner, director of community relations for the Hillsboro Hops, said the organization was proud to be able to assist in the program.

“We want to make sure the Hillsboro community is safe, so we’re happy to be here today,” said Wagner. “We want to help the Hillsboro Police Department and make everyone aware of safety issues.”

In fact, during last week’s crosswalk emphasis, every driver stopped for the distinctive green-clad mascot, while the “regular” pedestrian was not given as much respect.

“All drivers stopped for Barley. There were no tickets or citations resulting from Barley’s involvement,” said Hillsboro’s public affairs manager, Patrick Preston. “However, the other pedestrian decoy did have drivers speed right past her.”

Those drivers were nabbed by waiting police.




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