The Tarpon Springs Police Department will be cracking down on traffic violations, specifically those endangering pedestrians. Starting Friday, there will be an increased police presence in the city, all due to a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.
Sgt. Robert Faugno of the Tarpon Springs Police Department said police will be targeting pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle violations at three or four locations around the Pinellas Trail near Tarpon and Safford avenues.
Faugno said this operation is meant as both a penalty and a lesson for distracted drivers.
“In every traffic enforcement detail there’s some degree of education,” he said. “This will obviously be a combination of both.”
According to Faugno, other law enforcement agencies working with this grant have issued more written warnings rather than citations. He expects Tarpon Springs will follow that same method.
Over the years the Tampa Bay Area has consistently been one of the deadliest cities for both pedestrians and cyclists. According to a report by Smart Growth America in 2016, the area was ranked as the seventh-most dangerous metopolitan area. The others were also in Florida.
According to a new study by the Wall Street Journal, the Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area is now the worst in the country for bicyclists. It has the highest cyclist death rate in the United States, and Pinellas has the most of the four counties in the region.
However, Faugno does not believe this data reflects Tarpon Springs. He can’t remember a time in the last year when there was an injury or fatality of a bicyclist. He said pedestrian accidents are a much bigger problem, with three fatalities within the last few months.
Faugno said this operation will be an ongoing enforcement effort to teach drivers to be cautious of pedestrians.
"They need to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “When they approach these intersections, especially along the Pinellas Trail, they need to use caution."