SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Springfield Police Department is starting proactive patrols to enforce Springfield’s pedestrian safety ordinance.

According to a press release from SPD, the ordinance is aimed at better protecting pedestrians and occupants of vehicles at intersections and along streets that have high volumes of traffic, high-speed limits, and/or narrow medians.

“The ordinance is specifically titled Pedestrian Safety Ordinance,” Chief of Police Paul Williams said. “That’s exactly what it is. It’s to keep people safe and to prevent some things that create a danger to the driving public and pedestrians. People that protest, solicit, advertise, and engage with people on major thoroughfares, you can’t do that.”

Officers will not only be able to respond quickly to citizen complaints of violations but also be free from other patrol duties to focus on city-wide enforcement of the ordinance.

“In the wake of the fatality earlier this week, this effort’s goal is to protect pedestrians and drivers through education and enforcement, and help prevent another tragic incident,” Chief Paul Williams wrote in the press release.

Officers will dedicate their time to this initiative voluntarily, working overtime, and their sole focus will be on enforcing this ordinance.

“It’s basically taking officers off the radios for not responding to calls for service,” Williams said. “They’re able to do this proactively, meaning they’re going to be able to focus on nothing but checking some locations that people routinely complain about.”

With 61 vacancies in the department, there is extra revenue to pay officers overtime for these proactive patrols.

The ordinance was passed back in 2017. In the past, it’s always been up to officers’ discretion on whether or not to ticket someone.

“This effort will remove that discretion,” Chief Williams said. “You encounter someone, they’re going to ticket if they’re a first-time offender. Now, if they’ve been ticketed two or three or four times in the past, they’re going to go to jail.”

Drivers who stop and engage can also be fined or arrested.

“I can’t emphasize enough the driving public, if they would not engage or participate or respond to requests for anything from someone standing on the side of the road, it would make our our our job a whole lot easier and create less of a problem,” Williams said.

The chief tells OzarksFirst that the department is not targeting the homeless or panhandlers.

“We have way too many traffic fatalities, way too many pedestrian fatalities in town, and a lot of this due to distraction,” Williams said.