When big cities ramp up to host the Super Bowl and other similarly gargantuan soirées, local officials are quick to gussy up their downtown areas: more cops, fewer bums, maybe some tasteful origami centerpieces for the park benches. It’s like that final bit of cleanup to impress your date before she shows up, which only works until she watches you eat.
Cleveland won’t be hosting — or winning — a Super Bowl anytime soon, but next month’s launch of the Horseshoe Casino is as big as our game generally gets. Which is why when Cleveland cops spent a day a couple weeks ago cracking down on jaywalkers on Public Square, it was a reasonable leap to assume they were cleaning up the front yard for the gamblers who will soon be descending on our fair city.
In one day, downtown cops distributed 28 jaywalking citations at $150 a pop. They were also looking out for open containers and underage drinking, which apparently has become a problem in the weeks since half a million people rained puke on the streets of downtown for St. Patrick’s Day.
Cleveland Police spokesman Sammy Morris claims the crackdown wasn’t for any specific reason.
“The biggest thing is safety,” he says, noting that multiple jaywalkers have been hit by cars in the past two months. “All you have to do is stand by Ontario on Public Square or anywhere downtown, and you’ll see people just walk out on green lights or running to catch the bus. We’re notoriously lax in adhering to the laws for pedestrians.”
Not anymore, says Morris, who notes that jaywalking enforcement will continue ... on select predetermined dates. Kind of like government holidays that nobody likes.
But it seems the Public Square show of force was more about the casino than Morris lets on: Just a week after the citation frenzy, the city announced protection plans for casino crowds and cop presence to make sure that while you may get screwed inside the casino, nobody screws with you outside. Three dozen officers will be on casino detail, freeing up plenty of good neighborhoods perfect for committing crimes in peace.
“We hope downtown is busy ... but we want you to be safe when you come down,” Morris says. “If you take care of the little things, the bigger things will follow.” That’s sorta what we’re afraid of.