Yesterday may have been April Fools' Day, but when it came to enforcing the District's traffic and pedestrian laws, D.C. police weren't joking around.
"They know it's for real when they get that little pink slip in their hand," said Officer William H. Hunter, a big smile revealing his gold-capped tooth with a white star etched in it.
Hunter, standing on the shoulder of the inbound lanes of Suitland Parkway in Southeast, was handing out speeding tickets at a rate of one every 10 minutes.
Down by the Southwest waterfront, in the 1100 block of Maine Avenue, Officer Stephen G. Gately and his partner were also having a bumper crop day: 60 speeding tickets and one arrest in five hours.
And at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street NW, Officer Maurice Hall was already half way through his second ticket book.
The six-hour tally: 51 tickets to pedestrians for walking against the light, 16 tickets to motorists for running red lights, making illegal turns and a variety of other infractions.
Yesterday was the official start of a new D.C. police crackdown on pedestrian and motorist violators, and police were determined to make an impression on people where it hurt at least a little -- their pocketbooks -- before they were hurt more seriously on the city's streets.
Alarmed by the dramatic increase in traffic-related fatalities in the District -- from 36 in 1982, when 11 pedestrians were killed, to 65 in 1984, when 33 pedestrians died on the city's streets -- D.C. police have begun an ambitious program to ticket people who violate the rules of the road.
"Pedestrian violations and speed are the major contributing factors to our fatality rate increase," said Capt. David P. Baker of the D.C. police Traffic Enforcement Branch.
In addition, he said, "People who run red lights are also a major concern."
So much so, in fact, that they'll pay $75 if caught, while pedestrians will pay $5 for each violation, and speeders from $15 to $100, depending on how fast they were traveling.
The traffic branch has targeted 37 intersections and 31 streets -- about evenly divided among the city's seven police districts -- where "specialized enforcement" measures, such as radar traps and increased foot patrols, will be used to help combat flagrant violations.
The intersections and streets are some of the city's worst, based primarily on the the number of accidents, radio calls and citizen complaints, according to Baker.
He said the target areas will change each month.
"We want to increase enforcement activities fairly and consistently," he said, "but we also want to increase our visibilty" to help deter violations.
Visibility was not much of a problem yesterday, as police stood in the middle of streets and intersections to wave people over, or when that didn't work, yelled at them to stop and chased them down the sidewalk.
"I was just so into doing what I had to do delivering business products and time was running out and I just didn't see the light," said Jerry Stampiglia, 24, a sales representative from Fairfax who was caught jaywalking across K Street NW.
"I made so much money today that this isn't going to make a difference," he said jokingly to Officer Otis L. Ligon Jr., who issued him a $5 ticket.
"Well, you can just walk right over there and we'll do it again," Ligon quipped back, pointing across the intersection.
Stampiglia shook his head and recanted: "It still hurts."