CVIndependent

Fri11242017

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

East Vista Chino has claimed another pedestrian’s life—the third since last October.

This time, according to the police report, the deceased was 62-year-old Palm Springs resident John Palladino, who was hit by a car on the night of Sunday, June 18. He was hospitalized and fought for his life until June 23, when he succumbed to the injuries he sustained in what police call a vehicle-versus-pedestrian collision.

“The preliminary investigation revealed a white 2011 Mercedes E-350, driven by a 76-year-old male from Palm Springs, was traveling westbound on East Vista Chino toward the intersection of North Sunrise Way,” said Lt. Mike Kovaleff.

According to Kovaleff, Palladino was walking northbound across Vista Chino, at Sunrise Way, on the east side of the intersection, outside of the crosswalk, against a red light. “The Mercedes entered the intersection with a green light and struck the pedestrian as he walked in the intersection,” Kovaleff said.

Kovaleff said there was no indication that alcohol or drugs were a factor.

Regardless of fault, East Vista Chino has proven yet again to be a deadly street. Less than a mile away, at Via Miraleste, two pedestrians recently lost their lives.

Jana Ploss, 64, a longtime Palm Springs resident, was struck by a car while crossing Vista Chino at Via Miraleste on Nov. 14 of last year. Only six weeks prior, on Oct. 6, James Harper, also 64, was hit by a car and killed at that same intersection. (See “A Perilous Crossing,” posted Dec. 19, 2016.)

Ploss, who lived at the Riviera Gardens condo complex, had crossed Vista Chino at Via Miraleste daily for years to visit her sister, who owns a house nearby on Chia Road. Yet around 6:13 p.m. on Nov. 14, according to the police report, Ploss was hit and killed by a car headed eastbound on Vista Chino.

The speed limit at that critical portion of Vista Chino is 45 mph, but traffic often goes faster, and nighttime visibility is pretty low.

Vista Chino is actually a state highway—it’s State Route 111—and therefore is controlled by Caltrans. After the deaths of Ploss and Harper, Caltrans looked into the matter.

“Caltrans did conduct an investigation at the intersection of State Route 111 and Via Miraleste earlier this year after the two pedestrian fatalities,” said John Bulinski, Caltrans’ District 8 director. “As a result of that traffic investigation, the city of Palm Springs and Caltrans will install a signal at that intersection.”

Bulinski also said that Caltrans is working with the city of Palm Springs, the California Highway Patrol, Lamar Advertising, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments and other organizations on a pedestrian-safety campaign—leading to the installation of several billboard advertisements around the valley.

Jana Ploss’ sibling, Roxann Ploss, has taken the issue a step further.

“I am currently working on wording for a bill to be presented to the state Assembly, and no ‘state highways’ would be built or allowed through highly congested residential areas when another route is possible,” Ploss said.

Ploss said it may take up to 18 months for the traffic signal at the intersection where her sister lost her life to be installed.

Meanwhile, Lt. Kovaleff offers some pedestrian safety tips: Any street that has a high volume of traffic and is dark poses a risk to pedestrians, and drivers, bicyclists and walkers need to be conscious and follow the rules of the road. Pedestrians and bicyclists should utilize lighting and bright clothing, and cross streets only where it is safe.

Published in Local Issues

San Bernardino police recently made national news thanks to a creative operation.

Cops, dressed in plain clothes or as homeless people, walked up to cars stopped at an intersection. The officers held signs, but instead of saying something to the effect of “need food,” the signs said something to the effect of “S.B. Police. I am not homeless. Looking for seatbelt and cell phone violations.”

Of course, many drivers didn’t pay attention—they were busy texting, talking on a phone or even eating.

Those drivers received citations.

The Palm Springs Police Department also recently conducted a creative operation, of sorts, to combat a common Palm Springs crime: bike theft.

In broad daylight, a marked police department bike was placed as bait, in Sunrise Park and in other areas of the city frequented by homeless people and the less fortunate. Of course, plain-clothes cops were on the watch.

During the operation, three people, all Palm Springs residents, were arrested for grand theft: Gilbert Langford, 43; Marcos Gonzalez, 29; and Charles Wunderlich, 30. Langford was also cited for violating parole; Gonzalez was on probation at the time of his arrest; and Wunderlich allegedly had drugs on him.

Bike theft is a growing problem in Palm Springs, according to the police.

“In 2014, 303 bicycles were stolen in the city,” Sgt. Harvey Reed said. “From Jan. 1, 2015, to July 31, 2015, 191 bicycles were stolen in Palm Springs.”

Lt. Mike Kovaleff declined to discuss details of the Bait Bike operation, because “it would jeopardize future details.” So I headed to Sunrise Park, where there are always plenty of folks who use bikes as their only means of transportation. Everyone I spoke to told me they’d heard of the Bait Bike operation. Kenny, a young fellow with a nice bike (who only wanted to use his first name), said he even served time due to Bait Bike.

“Yep, the cops nabbed me at the Circle K, midday, about eight months ago,” he said. “Got six months for a felony, had priors, served about a month and a half.”

Kenny recalls how it went down. “The bike (had) a carbon fiber frame, cost about $1,300. The cops were in a van, watching it all. They got me on the bike.”

Kenny stopped, scratched his head and reluctantly continued. “I was duped! A lady asked me if I wanna buy the bike. I fell for it. It was entrapment!”

Evidently, the judge didn’t buy Kenny’s explanation. As far as entrapment claims regarding Bait Bike, John Hall, the information specialist for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, was not able to comment.

Jose, another young fellow with a cool bike, explained what usually happens to stolen bikes.

“They go on bricks, man! No fool’s selling them to pawn shops; the owners work with cops,” he said. “A ‘hot’ bike is taken apart, and those parts are used to repair other bikes. Bikes are all we got, man!”

Sgt. Reed offered some useful tips on how to protect a bicycle from being stolen. Beyond having a photo of and the serial number for your bike, always lock the rear and front wheels to the frame—as well as the seat.

Most importantly, Sgt. Reed warned: “Never leave your bike unattended or unlocked, even if it's just for a minute.”

Published in Local Issues