New crosswalk proposal in handcuffs

A man pushing for more crosswalk enforcement denies his proposal is a “money grab” for the police, saying any revenue generated will help fund the unit.

Norm Collins, a Dartmouth resident advocating for better crosswalk safety, gave his proposal to the board last month, calling for a full-time crosswalk enforcement unit with an estimated cost between $600,000 to $700,000.

Halifax’s Board of Police Commissioners struck down the proposal for the creation of a unit at a meeting held this week.

Bill Moore, deputy chief of police, said, “I want to make sure if we’re going to come to the board and ask for $600,000 that we know exactly what we’re going to do with those new resources. And at this point we’re not ready to do it yet.”

From January to November 2014, there were 223 vehicle- pedestrian collisions in the Halifax

Regional Municipality. Sixty per cent, or 134, occurred at crosswalks.

However, 229, or 81 per cent, of pedestrian victims experiencedeither no injury or a minor injury. Moore says he has issues with the way the proposal is structured, including the use of ticketing as ameans of generating revenue.

In a review of Collins’ proposal, Cliff Falkenham, superintendent of the Halifax Regional Police for West Division, says although traffic enforcement does generate revenue,the guiding principle is safety.

If the unit were to employ six officers, Falkenham says the estimated cost would be $645,600, plus the costs for police officers’ time in court if tickets are disputed, vehicles, radios, uniforms and other equipment, which may exceed Collins’ estimates.

Collins was disappointed with the board’s decision. Outside the meeting, he said the police’s mandate is to improve safety.

“And here was an opportunity for them to do something. To be bold. To actually change their approach to what is, I think, fairly considered one of the most significant issues in the city these days and they’ve chosen to do essentially nothing.”

Moore stated there are no high- risk intersections in Halifax.

Falkenham’s report identified five intersections over the past five years with the most pedestrian-vehicle collisions, the highest number at any one intersection being five, but the report does not specify which intersections they are.

Collins says those who violate the law need to be made accountable in order to change behaviour.

Cities like Calgary, which is almost three times the size of Halifax, are working to improve safety on roads. In 2013, the city released a five-year plan to reduce fatalities and injuries on roads to zero.

The report says the Calgary Police Service’s traffic section has 120 members.

This is compared to Halifax’s Integrated Traffic Unit of 10 officers from HRP and RCMP.

Moore says he is not trying to minimize crosswalk safety but wants to consider distracted driving and speeding, as well.

For now, Collins will continue to implement crosswalk flags and improve the visibility of crosswalks.

When the December collisions report is released by police, Collins says he will analyze it and share his thoughts once more.

“And hopefully people will react.”