NEWARK, NJ - Newark police officers are in the midst of conducting a pedestrian safety initiative that uses a decoy to educate - and issue summonses - to people during a month-long Street Smart NJ campaign.

The campaign is for all of Essex County and coordinated by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA). The NJTPA teamed up with both local and county officials for the campaign.  

In Newark, there was a police decoy yesterday at the intersection of Raymond Boulevard and Mulberry Street to issue warnings to drivers who failed to stop for pedestrians. Warnings were also issued to pedestrians who crossed outside of a crosswalk or against a signal, NJTPA spokeswoman Melissa Hayes said.

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Another decoy campaign is planned for next week, and summonses instead of warnings will be issued when appropriate, Hayes explained. Two uniformed Newark police officers were observed today at the Raymond Boulevard and Mulberry Street intersection handing safety tip fliers too.

“The Newark Police Divisions participation in Street Smart Newark underscores our commitment to ensuring that pedestrians are even safer while crossing our streets,” said Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose in a statement. “With a rising number of people walking while distracted by texting, talking and engaging on social media, it’s critical that increased public safety measures are provided to limit pedestrian roadway injuries.”

Newark police today also issued a plea to the public to help identify an injured pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle on Oct. 8. The male was hit in the area of McCarter Highway and Clay Street around 10:30 p.m., authorities said. Police also released a photo of the male today.

Crashes are an issue in Newark and the state. New Jersey was designated a “focus” state in 2016 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since it ranked 17th in the country for pedestrian fatalities. Newark, meanwhile, is labeled a “focus” city.

There were 2,527 motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians in Newark from 2012 to 2016, according to the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety. Those crashes resulted in 56 deaths, 72 incapacitating injuries and 443 moderate injuries.

Meanwhile, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office received a $50,000 grant from New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety’s Pedestrian Safety Enforcement and Education Fund last fiscal year. With the grant money, 30 “Cops in the Crosswalk” details - most of which were in Newark - were conducted. Two pedestrian enforcement activities were conducted in Downtown.

The sheriff’s office applied for the grant again this year and is expected to receive it again. Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, who is an NJTPA Board of Trustees member, said safety for everyone was a top priority.

“We’ve made important infrastructure improvements in Newark, but it is the behavior of people driving and walking that is the most critical factor in reducing crashes and fatalities,” DiVincenzo said in a statement.

Street signs, posters, tip cards and educational materials will be on display throughout communities participating in the campaign.

The Street Smart campaign was created in 2013 and more than 80 communities have participated in it since then. The campaign in 2016 resulted in a 40 percent reduction in drivers failing to stop for pedestrians and a 28 percent reduction in pedestrians crossing mid-block or against the signal, according to an analysis by the NJTPA.

“This campaign is about changing behaviors and saving lives, and we’ve seen some great successes,” said NJTPA Executive Director Mary Ameen in a statement. “We look forward to working with the City of Newark and Essex County on this important initiative. Together, we can make a difference and help reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries in our state.”

Newark worked with the NJTPA to develop a pedestrian and bicycle safety plan a few years ago, Newark Director of Engineering Phillip Scott said today at a press conference announcing the safety campaign. Currently, the city is working with the agency on a Newark Downtown Circulation Improvement study, which collects data on pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and buses in the district. 

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