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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

I got slapped with a jaywalking ticket

I didn’t go into it trying to trap the police in a double standard, but that’s how it now looks.

I was walking down 15th Street SE off First Avenue with three people — two women who wouldn’t tell me their names and a man named Marcus Hicks.

They were angry that the cops have been cracking down in southeast Cedar Rapids. They were especially irked that cops were handing out jaywalking tickets for people who walked across residential streets to their car, or their neighbor’s house.

We came to the corner of Fifth Avenue SE, and there in the 1400 block of the avenue were three squad cars, and groups of people gathered on porches on both sides of the street. Other than the cops and a toothy, moustached guy with a seven-foot high fence in his small front yard and no less than six growling dogs pacing on the packed dirt behind it, I was the only white guy around.

The woman with me suggested I jaywalk to see if they’d give me a ticket like they did for the black people who’d received tickets earlier. I walked on a diagonal line across the street and a police officer called me over. After a brief exchange with the lieutenant, who was sitting in a squad car to the rear of the others, I was stuck in the back of a squad car for a few minutes and issued a citation for failing to use a crosswalk.

No, I haven’t started working for KGAN.

I deliberately jaywalked without thinking too much about it, but then realized as I was halfway across the police had no choice but to give me a ticket. And that’s what they did. Partly I didn’t believe they were actually citing people for crossing what’s essentially a two-lane residential street. (Have we seen any jaywalking tickets issued in Bowman Woods? I bet not.)

Twenty minutes later, the police were gone. As I was talking to some of the young men who’d had their basketball hoop carried away (it was sitting on the city’s right-of-way and nobody was claiming it), the same police officer called me and said I could tear up the ticket. Judges have thrown out lots of charges like that, he said, and he shouldn’t have issued it to me because I was not “impeding traffic.”

That was the difference, he said, between my citation and the other two citations he handed out before I got there.

This of course did not go over well with the crowd in front of 1417 Fifth Ave. SE. They insisted there had been no cars coming when the others received their citations.

One of them was Damita Mims, who said no way, no cars were coming.

The department is now looking into this.

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Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, , , , , , ,

33 Responses

  1. Mike Coleman says:

    My initial reaction was, “good for the police”…until I got to the part about them advising just you to tear up your ticket. I guess they figured out where you worked?

  2. Ben Rogers says:

    Adam, how much was the citation for jaywalking?

  3. zach says:

    I say hand out all sorts of tickets to everyone in neighborhoods where crime is high. Once the community can come together and police itself then the cops can back off a bit. Solutions to all of these problems start at home.

  4. […] parts of the community, I recommend reading the comments contained within this Gazette article by Adam Belz (read his latest blog entry about getting a jaywalking ticket…part funny, part ironic).  […]

  5. joe zito says:

    I drive 5th ave. and 4th ave from 19th to the downtown all the time, and I get sick and tired of the people constantly in the road. Sometimes they dart out from between cars randomly, sometimes they walk down the center of the lane, using the road as a side walk. One time, I had to drive between two young men who were in the middle of the road, walking slowly the wrong way down the street. Because I did not pull over and allow them to use the street, they kicked the side of my car. When I slowed down to call the police, they threw a large ice chunk into my side window as hard as they could. Also, I saw the basketball hoop you were talking about. For two days in a row, I had to stop in the middle of 5th ave. so the guys could finish their plays.

    I am glad that the cops are cracking down on the folks who use the roads as their playgrounds, and I can assure you that mnay, many of us in the neighborhood have been complaining about this behavior for years. The police are responding to our complaints, not just harassing people because they are black.

  6. Terry says:

    Adam, thanks for your reporting. This may not be a Pulitzer Prize caliber topic, but through you I’m beginning to get a feel for a neighborhood.

  7. joe zito says:

    plus, you unfairly set the police up. If they had not given you a ticket, there would be screams of racism, even though you were not impeding traffic.

  8. thoughts from 3rd ave SE resident says:

    good work adam.

    i can’t believe they told YOU that you could tear up the ticket, but not the others.

    insane.

  9. Drew says:

    I work in downtown CR and must cross 1st Ave, which runs between our parking lot and office building. We have the opposite problem – even though we cross at an intersection, drivers disregard pedestrians’ right of way. The markings, if they were ever there, faded ages ago; but the sidewalk is still sloped down toward the street to accomodate wheelchairs. It’s a legitimate street crossing, but we still have to “play Frogger” to get to work.

    That said, there is a difference between belligerently obstructing & endangering traffic in the middle of the block (as described by joe zito), and crossing where it’s safe and sensible to do so (like you did).

  10. Jerome says:

    The problem here is that for generations now, blacks have operated on a “I dare you to respond to my totally ignorant actions…I’ll attack you” kind of mindset. Now, the time has come to set them straight.

    • Babygurl says:

      This was a totally racist comment!! Just because some “Black” people come off with an attitude such as that, it doesnt men that every “Black” person thinks the same.

    • why judge people says:

      not all blacks operated on your theory it is time to set all people straight that commit all crimes.

  11. adambelz says:

    The total cost of the ticket was $79.

  12. CC says:

    Gee, I know of a Church on 17th street S.E. whose patrons regularly leave the Sunday services by way of the education wing at mid block, and cross to the elementary school playground across the way which doubles on Sundays as a church parking lot.

    I suppose that the cops are going to be handing tickets out for Jay walking in droves there on Sunday at noon. Right?

  13. CC says:

    BTW – Adam, would you ask your friendly police officers how much the typical going rate for the act reportedly solicited from an undercover officer for $30 USUALLY goes for. Somehow 30 bucks sounds unusually low to me.

  14. KB says:

    I for one am ecstatic about this. We live on Pioneer Ave SE, and one poor child made the fateful mistake of going out last summer with a hand held game he had gotten, well some of the children that live in another complex decided that they wanted it and beat him till he gave it up. The same children from that complex last summer were on top of Monroe school, they also set the play ground equipment on fire. Every spring/summer/fall we can not have our windows open on a nice night, because the parents of these children are outside all night long drinking and carrying on. They have no regard for anyones peace and quiet, they blare the music at all hours of the day and night to the point that our windows and walls shake from the music. Drugs are constantly being sold in the building. I showed a friend of mine from another state the crime on our street through the crime data base and she couldn’t believe it. They don’t have that many calls in a year let alone in a month and one street.
    Took my now 3 year old who repeats everything that she hears now, to the 1st Ave McDonalds when she was 1 1/2. All I heard from about 5 teens was n***** this and n***** that, and was thanking God that she didn’t know how to talk yet. On their way out they took their arm and slid it across the counter that had the napkins and condiments on it and everything went all over the floor. Whenever we drive on 1st Ave by Road Ranger and McDonalds, the residents of that area, are always walking in the middle of the street infront of cars, as if daring someone to hit them. I am glad that the police and the residents of CR are finally taking a stand as one saying “we’re not going to take it any more”!

  15. Steve Hanken says:

    I live in the 1500 block, I find it a wonder someone hasn’t been t-boned in the intersection of 15th Street with all the cars that run that stop sign. People in the street also include roving bands of kids who have fist fights, throw garbage all over the neighborhood, threaten people at random, assault people on the side walk, and the list goes on and on. For those who think the neighbors can control this, I say you come on over and just try! You will put your life in danger. The dope deals go on night and day in the street, they aren’t the ones the police can make money on. that is the bigger fish who they are looking for. These punks and small time crooks keep the big guys in business and turn our streets into sewers of humanity. I’m greatful they have finally begun to see the need to take care of this. We, as neighbors , have asked for this for years, knowing full well it was going to take someone seriously hurt before that help came. I’m sorry it had to happen, but at least now it will be dealt with.

  16. br6713 says:

    While I think it is good that the CRPD is attempting to make a statement by showing more presence in the SE area I also think the jay walking tickets are crazy. And the fact that they issued the ticket to Adam and then told him to tear it up shows that they are really just citing to make a statement. While many of the commenters on the gazette articles and in these blogs have lumped all people living in those areas as ‘bad’ or what not they are not all bad, there are plenty of law abiding citizens living within that area and I have a feeling that the majority of us have all jaywalked at one time or another. I know when I worked downtown I was definitely guilty of jay walking. The articles on this subject also keep pointing out that the police are there to show the public that it is still thier neighborhood. I think if there were a bunch of police in my neighborhood handing out jay walking tickets I dont know that I would feel like it is my neighborhood. Now if they were there patroling for safety that is one thing but jaywalking tickets is a bit much.

  17. Eric says:

    10th Street / Mercy Employees….

    How long before they start citing these people??? I guess if I mow one over some morning it wont be my fault…

  18. Charles Reader says:

    Adam,

    Why was your ticket situation kept out of the Gazette printed edition? Just curious why its only online.

    • adambelz says:

      Primarily it’s because my jaywalking ticket was not part of the larger, comprehensive story I was trying to write about the police crackdown. Do you think it should have been in the print edition? Should it be tomorrow? Me talking about how I tested the police and they ticketed me, then told me to tear it up? I don’t know. Seems a little self-indulgent. Also, the situation was complicated, and I don’t want to come out and accuse the cops of racial profiling, because I don’t think that played a part.

  19. Dana says:

    This comment is for Jerome:

    Who are you and where do you come from. It is exaclty your type of mentatlity that continues the prejudice in this town and across the country. I am a African American single Mom, productive in society. I do a ton of community service and attempt to educate youth on how to deal with situations and to try to help give them alternitives to help them stay out of trouble. To have a blanket state ment that “blacks have operated on a “I dare you to …” It’s not all blacks, or all hispanics, or all poor white people…it is ignorant people who think they can get away with anything and are defiant. You could that statement up so easily by taking any reference to race out of it. Try it sometime, when you are about to say..Blacks do whatever, try saying ignorant people do whatever. Your concerns will be heard.

    And for Adam…thanks for making a point. I too said the same thing, when the city decides to give Jay Walking and other tickets in other neighborhoods, then I understand. Having a presence in the neighborhoods will be good for everyone. It is frustrating to have to deal with silly people walking in the middle of the street and acting indignant..but what is wrong in one neighborhood is wrong in another.

    Dana

  20. chriss says:

    So why don’t they start handing out loitering tickets also? God only knows there is enough of that too!! I only know because we used to live over there and the stories I could tell you!!

  21. Deb Butenko says:

    Does the fact that a pedestrian actually was hit in this area now validate and/or justify the jaywalking tickets?

  22. Jim Cannon says:

    Everyone needs to stop and realize that we are having problems all over the city,not just the SE/NE side.As far
    as the blacks causing all the problems,wrong.We have
    whites,yellows,tan,etc.also causing problems and the
    Police ARE confronting,and/or arresting them.I’m white,
    have lived here all my life,in all quadrants of the city,and
    am getting tired of all this racist talk.There are bad apples
    in every barrel
    I’ve worked security at different establishments on First
    Avenue and numerous times,when I had situations come
    up,I had several blacks backing me up.Let’s start trying
    to pull this city together;get rid of the criminal element,
    whether black,white or whatever and quit acting and
    talking like we’re in the old south.
    As far as PD cracking down on even what seems like
    small infractions of the law,GO FOR IT.

  23. thoughts from 3rd ave SE resident says:

    On a slightly different note…

    My brother-in-law mentioned this to me the other night in regards to the assault on Tim Davis and all of the events that followed:

    “If Cedar Rapids would not have cut the funding for the police helicopter, the police would have probably found the guy before he assaulted the officer.”

    Seems like a valid point. It could have prevented a lot of the robberies and assaults that have been taking place lately. When there were situations in the past, the helicopter would fly over their target area with searchlights on.

    • Jim Cannon says:

      You are right on the dot about the helicopter,it should still be in the air and may have prevented this attempted
      murder from happening.I say attempted murder because it was not just an assault.I still believe that we should all either call,write or e-mail our City Council and City Manager and tell them that we want them to STOP cutting
      the Police Department’s budget.We need to be sure that
      CRPD gets what they need to fight the criminal elements
      in our city,whether it be more manpower or equipment.
      Has anyone noticed that the only Council member who
      has really come out and stated that the CRPD needs more
      support has been Monica Vernon.Shields has more so
      complained about them not doing their job.Haven’t seen,
      or heard any comments from the Mayor,Mayor pro-tem,or the City Manager.Just like when we had the flood.They are hiding out.

  24. blueparrot says:

    its only online because it sounds like fiction to me.. and boo freaking hoo.. the thugs and breeders who are flocking to this state to eat up tax dollars are the same ones bringing their attitude of “we own this place now mf! ” .. they stare u down.. they abuse animals.. they scream and play vulgar “music” at all hours of the day and nite.. if u dont like what the police are doing go back to wherever u crawed out from .. im sure cedar rapids violence will go way way down.. cause and effect is only too easy to see here.. Wake up Cedar Rapids .. stop the recruiting of violent thugs from chicago to iowa.. a.k.a. welfare.. section 8.. food stamps… and on and on and on…

  25. WM says:

    What happens to the officers involved – “the sergeant and the lieutenant”?

    Wasn’t it against the law for them to knowingly issue a false citation? Perjury?

    Is that why he wanted you to “tear up the ticket”?

    Somewhere around the middle of a citation, right above signature of the officer and the offender, it states “I certify under penalty of perjury and pursuant to the laws of the State of Iowa that the preceding is true and correct.”

  26. Dave says:

    GOOD FOR YOU ADAM!

    This is journalism and you displayed courage to test an invisible limit.

    Reporting the results of the test opened new horizons for reporting, IMHO.

    That you got a ticket seems to demonstrate that the police are not using racial bias. That they told you to tear it up gives a different message.

    More grist here for the journalistic grinding mill.

  27. […] not so squeamish. That’s why The Gazette has published first-person accounts by Lyle Muller, Adam Belz and myself about our involvement in stories we were […]

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