Local News

Sebring police hold crosswalk sting

SEBRING - The motorist stopped at North Ridgewood Drive and North Mango Street and appeared to be in a hurry when he turned left Thursday onto Ridgewood from Mango.

He continued, almost going through a crosswalk, with a pedestrian heading into his path, but stopped, apparently partly in the well-defined brick crosswalk when he saw the pedestrian, who wore a bright blue Gators jersey. He motioned at the pedestrian to move faster, but the pedestrian gave him an earful about how pedestrians have the right-of-way at crosswalks.

Then as he headed down Ridgewood, all of a sudden a police car flashing its lights stopped him.

As it turned out, the driver made an illegal left turn and he should have stopped before entering the crosswalk.

The man in the blue jersey was actually Sebring Police Officer Rick Little, who was part of a sting operation to catch people who did not obey state law by stopping at crosswalks with pedestrians.

Sebring Police Cmndr. Steve Carr said police held the two-day operation on Wednesday and Thursday at the crosswalk because they have received many complaints about people being nearly run over at the crosswalk.

During the two days, the officers gave out more than two dozen citations and warnings. And it was readily apparent that they could have given out many more.

Oftentimes, more than one vehicle would zip through the crosswalk, less than a couple of inches from Little. An armored vehicle was among those that didn't stop.

Little said he wasn't surprised that so many vehicles didn't stop.

"Even when I'm in full uniform, I've been almost hit in the crosswalk," he said.

The man who waved at Little, trying to get him to walk faster, ended up getting lucky and receiving a warning. A citation would have added three points to his driving record besides carrying a $166 fine.

Still, the driver, who would not give his name, was unhappy. He said he thought the police operation was a bit excessive. After he got his warning, he watched the operation for awhile and then told Little that he believed it bordered on entrapment.

"We're not singling people out," Little said. "We don't jump out in front of cars. We act like normal pedestrians. We're out here trying to educate people."

Little said people don't have the right to break the law. "If I leave my house open, that doesn't give anyone the right to go in my house and steal stuff," he said.

Another driver told Little that he waved at his wife from the yellow strip at one of the crosswalks, indicating that Little wasn't crossing at the time, Little said.

"If I had been in the yellow strip I couldn't have seen her," he said, adding that a parked vehicle would have blocked his view.

Another driver who was stopped Thursday said that he had no idea why he was stopped. The man, who did not give his name, said he was looking for an address and did not see the pedestrian.

The majority of the stopped drivers used the excuse that "I didn't see them," Officer Paul Deshazo said.

He said during the two days he gave out 18 citations and two warnings.

Deshazo said he was so strict at issuing citations because he takes his daughter to the Children's Museum and when crossing at that intersection, "We've almost been hit several times."


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