Precautions can help pedestrians stay one step ahead of harm

Whether taking a stroll or out for a power walk, staying safe should include being aware of one’s situation, Metropolitan Police Department officials said.

VIGILANCE WHILE CROSSING STREETS

As far as traffic is concerned, Metropolitan Police Department officer Marcus Martin said the burden is on the pedestrian to watch for wayward motorists.

He said the biggest problem nowadays is people texting as they cross the street, something he witnesses often around schools.

"These kids (have their faces) … buried from the moment their foot’s in the crosswalk to the other side," Martin said. "They’re buried in their phone and are just assuming that a motorist is going to see them or that a motorist is not under the influence. And that’s just crazy to me."

For anyone who thinks they are not allowed enough time to cross with a "walk" signal at intersections, the count downs depend on the size of the intersection. Timing for cross walk signals is determined by a manual put out by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The manual stipulates that 3.5 feet of travel per second be allotted for pedestrians to make it from curb to curb. The wider the street, the more time that’s allotted.

Before 2009, the regulation was 4 feet of travel per second. The city’s more than 500 traffic signals are being retrofitted at a rate of about 10 a month.

The Metropolitan Police Department reports 421 pedestrian-involved accidents thus far this year, including people merely struck by a bumper. Of the 421, 30 resulted in the death of the pedestrian. Pedestrian-involved accidents totaled 453 in the same period last year, with 15 killed.

North Las Vegas has added a buffer zone to keep sidewalks from being up against the street at the North 5th Street corridor, between Las Vegas Boulevard and Carey Avenue, said Chrissie Coon, North Las Vegas Police Department spokeswoman. That new stretch of road provides pedestrians with a landscaped buffer to help protect them should a vehicle veer off the roadway.

Henderson saw three fatal pedestrian accidents in 2011, two of them the drivers’ fault, said Keith Paul, spokesman for Henderson Police Department.

For recreational walking on designated paths, Henderson’s Parks and Recreation Department has 68 Trail Watch volunteers to promote safety and assistance for trail users.

"Their timely reports have enabled safety hazards, desert dumping and graffiti to be addressed quickly," said Kim Becker, communications and marketing supervisor for Trail Watch.

In 2011, Trail Watch volunteers spent 968 hours on the trails and submitted 554 reports, some pinpointing areas of concern, others simply saying, "All looks well." Since the program launched in April 2008, the volunteers have spent more than 3,600 hours on Henderson trails and submitted 2,290 Trail Watch reports.

While out walking, it’s important to be aware and have a defensive mind-set, officers from Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas said.

"There was a study where they showed convicted rapists and muggers a video of people walking down the street," Martin said, "and asked these (felons), ‘Who would you target for an attack?’ And they always pick the person who is buried in the phone or who is distracted. They didn’t pick the person who was alert, was looking around and noticing their surroundings."

If a person is walking and a car seems to be creeping up on him, they can turn and head off in the other direction, forcing the car to back up against traffic if it wants to keep up with them.

Police advise that pedestrians pull out their cell phone to discourage predators.

Martin said it was fine to call 911 should someone suspect they’re being followed.

"We roll on things that turned out to be what the person thought, all the time," he said. "We would rather have that than have someone dragged off to the desert."

Martin said women should be especially careful walking past vans, even when at the grocery store, as wom en have been abducted that way.

TRACKING NEIGHBORHOOD CRIME

The Metropolitan Police Department’s website, lvmpd.com, has a feature that shows the various crimes committed in one’s area. Site visitors can choose "crime view" from the "protect yourself" drop-down menu.

Which areas of Las Vegas should be avoided?

"You know we, as police officers, would get in a lot of trouble (telling) that," Martin said. "We don’t have the freedom to say that, because … it’s easy for some people to suggest that we’re going to police differently in that area. So we can’t really say, even though we might have an opinion."

Paul said people should always use common sense when out and about. He offered these safety tips: Choose routes that are frequented by other walkers, runners and bikers; if you see someone you are suspicious of or don’t feel comfortable being around, go to a public building or a store; carry a cell phone; walk in groups; and stay in well-lit areas if out at night.

He said he could not pinpoint certain neighborhoods known as crime hot spots but that "People generally walk in their community and know of areas they would rather not go . Different people tend to avoid different areas. One area that someone may choose not to walk, another person could feel perfectly comfortable."

The North Las Vegas Police Department’s website, cityofnorthlasvegas.com (click on departments, then police), can pinpoint where crimes have occurred.

"Nowhere in this city is it immune to crime. … You can get robbed in Summerlin just like you can get robbed in Henderson and robbed in North Las Vegas, so we really want people to be of the mind-set to be aware of your surroundings and defend yourself and be prepared in case of an emergency happening to you," Coon said.

Coon said it was difficult to say whether her city is a safe place because it "depends on how it’s measured. If you use fatal crash statistics, then people would say it’s pretty safe because we’ve only had four fatal accidents, and I believe only one of them was a pedestrian … it’s something we’re not immune to … it could happen here just as easily as it’s happening in the rest of the valley."

Coon said instances where pedestrians have been robbed are crimes of opportunity, where a lot of cash or high-dollar electronics were flashed.

"Really, those types of crimes can happen anywhere," she said. "We don’t have one section of the city where those things happen more often than not. I would say those things are staggered evenly across the city."

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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