'Pedestrian Decoy' Operations

Another way to bring attention to problems with motorists not yielding to pedestrians is through a ‘pedestrian decoy ’ when police officers in highly visible civilian clothes pose as pedestrians crossing the street while other hidden officers observe their attempts. If a motorist violates safe crossing rules by failing to yield to the pedestrian, the hidden officers pursue and apprehend violators. Because it is such a highly visible approach, it often garners media interest and publicizes the need for motorists to be aware of pedestrians.

To execute a successful ‘pedestrian decoy’ law enforcement should complete the following steps.

  1. Identify high-risk locations for pedestrians and communicate these locations to law enforcement, traffic engineers, schools and the public.
  2. Observe the locations to see the types of violations that are occurring.
  3. Calculate a reasonable amount of time for a driver to see and react to the pedestrian, and mark that distance back from the crossing with a cone or sign. One measure would be the “slide-to-stop” formula using a speed 10 mph over the posted limit.
  4. Dress the “pedestrian” or police officer in high-visibility civilian clothes. He or she should not step into the street if the car has passed the safe distance cone.
  5. Identify violators and apprehend them. Other officers observe the crossing attempts from a hidden location that allows them to pursue and apprehend violators. If a concealed location is not feasible, the decoy officer can carry a radio to alert fellow officers of a violator.

Effective programs operate in Miami Beach, Florida and in Annapolis and Montgomery County, Maryland. Additional cities in the states including Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Georgia, Maryland, and New Mexico are actively pursuing the concept.

Tool: ‘Pedestrian decoy’ operation


Police officers pose as pedestrians to identify motorists who fail to stop for crossing pedestrians.


  • Can be high visibility through media coverage.
  • Can quickly identify offenders.
  • Poses no threat to actual pedestrians.


  • Requires police resources, which may include overtime pay.
  • Needs to be done at regular intervals.