Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said that the practice police used to issue more than 30 stop light tickets wasn’t illegal, but added that offices won’t be triggering a pedestrian crosswalk during any future enforcement operations.
On Friday, Jan. 19 and Saturday, Jan. 20, a Wrightsville Beach police officer triggered the High Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) light at the intersection Causeway and North Channel Drives, with other officers waiting to pursue drivers that didn’t properly stop at the light, eventually issuing 22 citations and 11 warnings for running the light.
While House said that he wants police to be proactive in enforcing violations, he said he would encourage officers to look for other options in enforcing traffic laws and ordinance violations.
“There’s ways we can be better utilizing our resources,” said House, noting that it concentrated officers in one location for most of the afternoon. “It goes beyond our philosophy.”
Enforcement of the HAWK light at the intersection was an issue that residents had raised at recent “Chat with the Chief” meetings, House said. The supervisor on duty conducted the operation after House instructed officers to increase enforcement of the intersection, with House adding he didn’t specifically instruct them to press the button to trigger the crosswalk.
Once triggered, the HAWK light will go first yellow and then red to allow pedestrians to cross the walk. It will then transition to a blinking red light, which motorists must treat like a stop sign — stopping to check for pedestrian traffic — before proceeding through the light. The light often prompts confusion among drivers.
Wrightsville Beach Police Capt. J. Bishop said that the operation was part of the department’s strategy to execute both “saturation” and “focus” patrols, where saturation patrols concentrate police resources in a certain area, and focus patrols looks for specific violations.