Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 | 2:30 a.m.
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Smoke comes from the tires of a small black car Tuesday that screeched to a halt inches from a Metro Police officer dressed in a turkey suit crossing Charleston Boulevard.
Though it may sound like the setup for a joke, it’s no laughing matter.
A woman sitting in the passenger seat yells, “At least he didn’t hit him!”
Wearing the suit was officer Michael Lemley, who seemed unfazed by the incident and advised the driver to be more cautious.
“We wear bulletproof vests to stop bullets, but there’s nothing that will stop a car,” said Lemley, who first sported the turkey costume in 2010 as part of a program to raise safety awareness at crosswalks.
A black Mitsubishi, a white Ford truck, a silver Mustang — one car after another — failed to yield to the turkey-suited officer. Police officers in cars and on motorcycles chased down and issued citations to drivers who failed to stop for Lamley in the crosswalk.
“Green Dakota,” Lemley said into his radio, signaling another officer to pull over a green truck. “And she’s on a cell phone.”
Lemley does routine crosswalk enforcement throughout the year. But around the holidays, Metro takes a more festive approach to emphasizing the importance of crosswalk safety by wearing costumes.
“We’re probably going to do Santa Claus this year,” Lemley said.
This time around, officers were posted at Charleston Boulevard and Burnham Avenue; Maryland Parkway and Reno Avenue; and Maryland Parkway and University Road, near the UNLV campus.
On Tuesday, 64 pedestrian-crossing citations were issued to drivers, 15 more than last year’s Thanksgiving campaign, said Sgt. Nate Anderson. One person got a speeding ticket and another was arrested on a count of driving under the influence after failing to yield for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
Emily Melendez, who works near the Charleston crosswalk, takes crossing the busy street seriously.
“Several people have gotten hit,” Melendez said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t stop. They don’t care if you’re walking.”
Metro’s crosswalk safety campaign fell on a day an 11-year-old girl suffered critical injuries after she was hit by a car near the intersection of Jones Boulevard and Reno Avenue.
So far this year, 19 pedestrian deaths have occurred in Metro’s jurisdiction. In 2010, there were 23 deaths.
Though drivers were the ones being ticketed on Tuesday, Lemley said, it’s a two-way street — pedestrians are also responsible for playing it safe.
“Look both ways and look both ways again,” Lemley said. “Even though you’re in a crosswalk, do not assert your right of way.”