On April 1,a young man and woman were walking along Miracle Mile near Barnes & Noble when they decided to cross the street. They glanced left. No cars coming. Then they glanced right. Nada. So they slowly crossed the four lanes without a problem.
As they began walking along the sidewalk again, however, a Coral Gables bicycle cop pulled a U-turn, raced over to them, and screeched to a halt between the two pedestrians. In an instant he had handed them each a $77 ticket for jaywalking. "It was idiotic," says the woman, who asked New Times to withhold her name. "The cop was screaming at us as if we'd shot someone. Meanwhile, there wasn't a car in sight."
They weren't the only ones caught off-guard by the citation. In fact, Coral Gables cops handed out 28 jaywalking tickets during a two-month anti-jaywalking frenzy this spring. That likely makes Miracle Mile the worst place to (jay) walk in all of Miami-Dade.
Bizarrely, jaywalking is already in the news. Last week, Phoenix TV stations aired a video of Arizona State University police arresting and manhandling a black female professor after stopping her for walking in the street.
A video of Dr. Ersula Ore's arrest -- during which she was slammed to the ground by a male cop and handcuffed -- quickly went viral. Critics accused the cop of racial profiling, and ASU has asked an outside agency to review the arrest.
But the incident also exposed the arbitrariness of jaywalking citations.
"Are you serious?" Ore asked the cop. "I never once saw a single, solitary individual get pulled over by a cop for walking across a street on a campus, in a campus location. Everybody has been doing this because it is all obstructed. That's the reason why."
In Coral Gables, jaywalking citations appear to be equally arbitrary. Records requested by New Times show jaywalking tickets vary wildly by year:
2014: 28 (through June 1)
They also vary wildly by month. Coral Gables cops didn't dish out a single jaywalking ticket in January and February, according to Lt. Paul Miyares. But they issued 13 in March and 12 in April. Then zero again in May.
All of the citations were doled out on Miracle Mile, Miyares says.
The not-so-pedestrian-friendly streets of Miracle Mile.
Averette via Wikimedia Commons
It's as if a single bike cop were going ballistic whenever he's on the beat. In fact, the woman ticketed in April says the cop rushed off to ticket four other people right after handing her a $77 citation. (CGPD could not immediately tell us which officer issued the tickets.)
Miyares says he has no idea why citations swing so violently from month to month or year to year, but there is no crackdown underway in the Gables.
"We've given 14,000 citations this year and only 27 for jaywalking," he says.
Records from elsewhere in the county, however, suggest Coral Gables is being particularly aggressive about the issue.
Take Miami Beach, where driving across Lincoln Road is harder than fording the river along the Oregon Trail because Britto-bag-toting jaywalkers insist on playing Frogger with oncoming cars. In South Beach, drunk, sunburned tourists stumble across Washington Avenue like they're running the weave drill in basketball.
Yet Miami Beach cops handed out only eight jaywalking tickets last year. So far this year, they've issued only another eight.
"It's rare," says MBPD spokesman Bobby Hernandez. "When we do [ticket someone], usually it's associated with an accident."
Miami-Dade PD doesn't even keep track of jaywalking stats.
But in Coral Gables, crossing the street without a walk signal is apparently a scourge. The 204 tickets issued in the past three and a half years amount to $15,708.
Where does that money go? Perhaps to the gadgets the police force buys. In 2010, Coral Gables cops dropped $12,420 on a battery-powered scooter that looks like an oversize Vespa and $16,420 on a "robotic remote reconnaissance system."
No word on whether the police robot has issued any jaywalking tickets.
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