To dampen jaywalking, Chinese traffic police turns to water spray

Traffic police in Daye, Hubei province, set up water-spraying equipment near a crosswalk on Monday to stop people from jaywalking. The targeted mists have an obvious effect, local police said.

The equipment was set up at an intersection in the city's downtown area. It consists of five pylons arranged along the road. The lower three spray water vapour when sensors indicate someone is walking through a red light.

"The machine has two systems with different functions. One is facial recognition; the other provides reminders and warnings," said Wan Xinqiang, deputy head of publicity for the Daye public security bureau. "It photographs people crossing against red lights and uploads the images to the police database to determine their identities. Meanwhile, a large electronic screen at the intersection will instantly display their photos."

Another system gives voice prompts about traffic light status, Wan said. "If it senses someone running a red light, it will spray water vapour and warn pedestrians by voice and laser."

In a video taken by China News Service, the system's voice says: "The light is now green. Please cross the road quickly and mind your safety." Another message says: "Please don't go through. You will be sprayed with water."

When a passer-by stepped toward the red light, the sprinklers sprayed for awhile, accompanied by red and green laser beams.

According to Daye police, the equipment was developed by a local information technology company at a cost of more than 1.3 million yuan ($207,000).

During its first three days of use, fewer people crossed against the red light, Wan said.

"Although there were still some people occasionally running red lights, the equipment truly has had an obvious effect in preventing that."

Some netizens worried that the system's lasers and sprays would frighten pedestrians and create new dangers. The police have told the public not to worry.

"To avoid the laser hurting children's eyes, we reduced the height from 1.2 meters to 0.8 meters. And because the spray is just water vapour, it will be safe for children and others," Wan said. "The water in the sprinklers is clean. It will be changed every day."

The idea for the equipment came from other equipment in Shenzhen and Wuhan, he said. "Shenzhen's equipment can record violators' faces and release them to the public. Wuhan's can prevent people from running a red light by setting up two long ropes at an intersection," Wan said. "We just combined them."

"If the equipment works well, we will utilize it throughout the city," he added.