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Verizon cell phone showing its "bathroom finder" feature Wednesday, July 19, 2006. ( Photo by Edward Lea / The Press of Atlantic City ) Edward Lea

NORTHFIELD — City police used $100 fines — and later a troop of Brownies — to drive home the point of traffic safety in two separate events Tuesday afternoon.

First, police running a checkpoint stopped 100 cars Wednesday afternoon in front of the St. Gianna Beretta Molla Church.

Undercover officers in jeans and hooded sweatshirts on New Road identified people chatting on their phones or other violations, radioing to other officers who pulled them into the church parking lot.

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There, officers handed out 46 $100 citations for using hand-held cell phones, as well as five citations for texting and driving, 17 for not wearing a seat belt and 32 other violations. Officers also gave motorists distracted-driving literature.

The overall goal was to raise awareness about the problem, Police Chief Robert L. James said.

Officers were joined by Pamela S. Fischer, director of the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Attorney General’s Office, who pointed out the number of people who had been pulled over.

Walking down the line of idling motorists waiting for a ticket, she pointed to one unbelted motorist in a car.

“You wear your seat belt normally, right?” the man shouted back. “That’s why I’m in here!”

Fischer said that distracted driving was a major concern. Even with a hands-free device, she said the motorist’s attention was narrowed by using a phone while driving.

Later on, she and James joined a half-dozen members of Girl Scout Brownie Troop 11325 from Northfield at the bike path and Mill Road. There, the goal was to promote crosswalk legislation that began April 1, which means drivers have to fully stop at a crosswalk if a person is in it.

The law previously said motorists had to merely yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

“The crosswalk is your safety zone” Fischer said to the girls, suggesting they also raise their hand before they cross the intersection to get the attention of motorists.

Fischer showed the girls a photo of Casey Feldman, the 21-year-old woman who was struck and killed last summer while crossing the street in a crosswalk in Ocean City. Feldman was an inspiration for the new law.

Police said they were inspired by what two of the girls found out.

Grace Vicente, 9, and Paris Pilli, 8, both of Northfield, said they were riding bikes a couple of weeks ago on the bike path and stopped to count the number of people who cruised through a pedestrian intersection.

“We want them to stop for people so people don’t get hurt,” Pilli said. They held a sign that read: “Be aware of pedestrians. It’s the law.”

Police Lt. Arthur Faden thanked all the girls for joining officers and spreading the word about crosswalks, saying, “We’re going to save lives today.”

Contact Derek Harper:

609-272-7046

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