ROGERS PARK — Police have doled out nearly 800 tickets in the last few months to "distracted drivers" who were using their cellphones while driving — most along Devon Avenue — Rogers Park Police District Cmdr. Thomas Waldera said.
"I've put out a lot of additional cars out here to look out for distracted drivers," Waldera said at a meeting with business owners along the bustling business strip. "We've had a series of crashes along Devon Avenue."
He said his officers had issued 763 tickets districtwide since a series of car crashes involving pedestrians, including when a couple and their son were struck and badly injured in December by a hit-and-run driver as they crossed Devon Avenue.
Nearly 500 of those tickets — which carry a fine of at least $90 — were issued this year, he said.
Business owners on Devon Avenue have long been fighting for more protection for their customers.
In 2012, Tsering Dorjee was struck and killed on Devon Avenue by a hit-and-run driver, leaving a homemaker wife and three children.
Last year, an 81-year-old woman was struck and killed.
In August, Norman David Esho, 83, was also struck and killed while crossing Devon Avenue.
Then, on Dec. 22, a 71-year-old woman, a 68-year-old man and their 28-year-old son were all struck by a hit-and-run driver. All three survived.
Police told business owners in January that the crackdown was coming, but the reported number of tickets was the first evidence of enforcement.
"It's good that they're doing it," said Amie Zander, executive director of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce.
With how bad traffic can get, Zander added, "It's amazing there aren't more accidents on Devon."
Waldera said his community policing officers were also passing out fliers to businesses that encourage pedestrians to use crosswalks and for drivers to stop for them.
"You want to balance out enforcement with what I call prevention through education," he said. "We want Devon Avenue to be a safe place."