Hellertown may seem like a quiet community to some, but there is a lot that goes on in its approximately 1.3 square miles, concerned residents told Officer Jim DeLeone at the police department's bimonthly block watch meeting June 22.
DeLeone, who has been leading block watch meetings since they resumed in the spring, was there as much to listen to the residents' concerns and answer questions as he was to disseminate information.
The majority of those in attendance were senior citizens, and one issue several attendees brought up was pedestrian responsibility.
Although there is often the perception that walkers are impacted by the high volume of traffic on Main Street more than motorists, several attendees at the meeting told DeLeone that they have observed pedestrians engage in behavior that is risky or against the law.
One man blamed the seemingly blase attitude of some pedestrians on the fact that schoolchildren are taught to expect traffic to come to a halt for them when they disembark school buses to cross a street.
"The kids are indoctrinated that they don't have to look because traffic's coming, because traffic's supposed to stop," he said.
Another man asked why motorists should have to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross Water or Walnut Street at one of the marked rail trail crossings located in the borough west of Route 412.
DeLeone explained that the trail crossings on those roads function in the same manner as crosswalks on Main Street, and that motorists have a responsibility to yield to pedestrians who are standing in them, waiting to cross.
"When they step out in the crosswalk, by rights, that vehicle has to stop," he said.
Furthermore, he explained that pedestrians are not limited to crossing at points where there are painted white lines stretching from one side of a street to another.
"If you're crossing at a corner, just because there's no lines there doesn't mean you don't have to stop for that pedestrian," he said.
DeLeone said he does agree that pedestrians need to assume responsibility for their own safety and be aware of how their behavior impacts motorists.
"You can't just run out there and expect everybody to jump to it," he said of pedestrians.
"People need to know the law," he added.
In answer to DeLeone's statement, a woman in attendance at the meeting said more needs to be done in terms of pedestrian education.
"These people feel entitled," she said. "I think we need to educate pedestrians... And I think they need to be penalized for their indiscretions."
DeLeone responded by saying that the police will cite pedestrians for disobeying the law, but added that the department "can't be every place."
"When we see them, we cite them," he added.
DeLeone noted that educating adults about pedestrian safety could be costly, and said residents might balk if told, "your taxes are going to go up because now you're paying for a teacher to teach adults how to cross a street."
He added that if police observe a child or teenager crossing a street illegally or engaging in some other type of ill-advised behavior, they try to be proactive by giving them a warning and telling them, "If I catch you again, you get a ticket."
According to DeLeone, the Hellertown Police Department is currently fully staffed, with a total of 14 officers including part-time officers.
During the daytime and overnight hours there are typically two officers on duty at any given time, and during the evening hours there are three on duty, he said.
"Most of the time during the day it's ambulance calls, accidents, traffic citations that we're writing," DeLeone said. "Most of our stuff is happening at night."
In response to a question from a resident, DeLeone said he thinks a regional police department covering Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township would be a good thing for residents of both communities.
"Personally I'm hoping that it does (happen)," he said. "I think you're going to get better service by doing that."
A unified Hellertown-Lower Saucon Police Department could help ease the financial burden having two separate departments places on taxpayers, and there should be no significant difference in response times to calls if the departments are merged, he said.
Having a combined police department would also make it easier for local police to apply for grants, he said.
"Every department that's went to this has benefited in one way or another," DeLeone stated. "It's going to benefit everybody."