By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
merchants are growing increasingly upset over drivers disobeying traffic laws as they tool through the town's Business Improvement District.
The merchants fear for their customers, perhaps rightly so.
"We had an elderly gentleman step off the curb and be hit by a car," said Cheryl Corpstein, one of the improvement district's spokespersons. "People are making U-turns, parking in the red zone."
As Corpstein was answering questions, she saw a driver turn the corner from Third Street to northbound H Street and park along the red curb by Edward Jones.
The car following veered into on-coming lanes of traffic to turn around the first car and continue northbound.
"People need to know this isn't some quiet, private neighborhood," Corpstein said.
Working against the area is the Washington Mutual ATM machine on Third Street just east of H Street, said Dolly Johnson of The Glamor Manor.
"The first 10 days of the month are insane," she said. "The welfare recipients can get their money out of the ATM, (and) Thursday was bedlam with the traffic violations."
She blames the high traffic at that corner on those who drive downtown to withdraw their money. After the first 10 days of the month, Johnson said "they run out of money and stop coming downtown."
The ATM is the only one in town that doesn't charge anyone to draw money from accounts. Electronic Benefit Transfer accounts, which welfare recipients receive are just one of an ATM customer's uses, said Diane Hamblin, senior personal financial representative with Washington Mutual.
"It's what Washington Mutual has decided to do for all customers," she said. "People with EBT accounts can get money at all the other banks in town, but they're charged for ATM use."
Downtown business owners recently asked Crescent Police Chief Doug Plack. They said he promised that an officer to enforce driving laws downtown would begin working at the intersection on March 1.
"He started working March 2, and he only works downtown on Sundays," Corpstein said.
Added Johnson, "Well, that's sure a big business day."
"I know I'm being facetious, but Plack heard everybody at the BID meeting complaining we feel like we were blown off," she said.
The problem, said Sgt. Garrett Scott, is that there's only one of the officer who's assigned to downtown duties.
"We wish we could clone him," said Scott, designated as police spokesman when Plack is away from the office.
Officer Eric Capon works four 10-hour shifts and is funded by a grant to which his duties must comply, Scott said.
"Each month we do four or five things to fulfill our grant requirements, and each one takes appropriate planning," he said. "His duties also include DUI and saturation patrols, and there's only one of him.
He added that Capon has been writing "handfuls of tickets" catching speeders in the A Street area, and has enforced traffic around the (downtown) schools, "where a kid was hit."
"He's doing everything he can to work on the complaints people have about areas," he said.
The police department is "not forgetting" about the downtown area, Scott said.
Three accidents on Sept. 29 and Oct. 20, 2005, and Aug. 1, 2006 have happened at the intersection of Third and H streets, Crescent Police Department reports.