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School bus traffic sting generates tickets, controversy in South Pasadena

June 18, 2009 |  7:39 pm

More than 160 people received $500 traffic citations Wednesday as part of an elaborate sting by the South Pasadena Police Department involving a decoy school bus complete with people walking on and off the vehicle.

The sting — designed to nab motorists who fail to stop for school buses with flashing red lights — has generated debate in the city. Some think the program was unfair, charging that the location was unusual for a school bus, the officers created a distraction, and there were no schoolchildren present.

“It was a crazy place for a school bus to be parked,” said Valerie McAndrews, whose 16-year-old daughter was among those cited. “You don’t stop in the middle of Huntington or you’re going to be rear-ended. In this particular instance I don’t think there was any way to obey the law.”

Others are supporting the effort, saying the city needs to crack down on drivers who don’t follow the rules. The yellow school bus first appeared on the busy six-lane road about 8 a.m. near the intersection of Milan Avenue, which has no stop sign or cross walk.

 San Gabriel resident Mary Hatton, 42, said she approached the area about 8:45 a.m. and was confused when she saw more than a dozen officers among the cars in the middle of the busy street.

 “It was a circus of lights and chaos,” she said of the sting that also involved from Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, San Marino and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Temple City station. “No one was speeding, I mean people were literally just trying to figure out what was going on and what to do to to keep away from whatever the activity was. I thought I was being directed along with other motorists away from whatever it was that was happening.”

Hatton received the $500 ticket.

The South Pasadena Police Department first decided to set up the sting in the area after receiving a complaint from the parents of a disabled child who boards a school bus on Huntington, Police Chief Dan Watson said.

“They’ve had a difficult time getting to the bus because people don’t comply with the vehicle code,” he said.

Read the full story here.

--Corina Knoll in South Pasadena

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