A lot of notable statistics surfaced at Wednesday’s City Council hearing on NYPD traffic enforcement. Many of them paint a picture of a department that devotes relatively little effort to combating traffic crime, while failing to distinguish vehicles that weigh a couple-dozen pounds from those weighing several tons. Here’s a rundown:
- There were 39,953 city traffic crashes involving injury in 2011, and 241 traffic fatalities. The Accident Investigation Squad, with its 19 detectives, worked 304 crashes last year. AIS issued 46 summonses and made 12 arrests.
- NYPD issued a million traffic summonses in 2011, including 76,493 for speeding. Also included in that number were 13,743 moving violations and 34,813 criminal court summonses given to cyclists. By contrast, police handed out 14,962 moving violations to truck drivers, and 10,415 criminal court summonses. Judging by those numbers, it must be cyclists doing all the killing.
- In his opening remarks, James Vacca cited Department of Health data showing traffic to be the leading cause of injury-related death for kids. Brad Lander wondered how, despite poor-mouthing when it comes to “the number one killer of kids in the city,” NYPD has managed to beef up initiatives like stop and frisk.
- According to an analysis of NYPD and DOT data by the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety (CHEKPEDS), 1,251 pedestrians were injured or killed in December 2011, and NYPD reports show that 89 percent of crashes that month were caused by careless or illegal driving. Yet in all of 2011, citations under VTL 1146 were made in less than one percent of crashes caused by careless or illegal driving in which a pedestrian was injured or killed.
More revealing snapshots from the hearing after the jump.
- Transportation Alternatives’ Paul Steely White pointed out in testimony that the hearing marked the first time NYPD has publicly endorsed speed cameras, and said he hoped word of that support would reach Albany. Vacca said the council would pass a home rule message if necessary.
- Vacca said he would like police to seize vehicles of speeding drivers. “These cars should at least be taken away from people who act as if these streets are their own,” he said. NYPD attorney Susan Petito responded that such action would have no basis in law.
- NYPD does not compile data on criminal charges stemming from crashes that do not leave pedestrians and cyclists dead or likely to die.
- After injured cyclist Michelle Matson completed her testimony — NYPD stopped investigating the hit-and-run crash that put Matson and her boyfriend in the hospital, telling them the owner of the car had an alibi — a nonplussed Peter Vallone said NYPD should not act as defense counsel for drivers.
- NYPD Deputy Chief John Cassidy made a couple of telling, or at least interesting, remarks. Asked by Vacca how crashes not involving death or serious injury are handled, Cassidy replied that the local patrol officer notes the location of the crash, then “fill[s] in the appropriate boxes.” Explaining departmental outreach, Cassidy said NYPD meets regularly with DOT staffers, including the “bicycle types.”
- Asked how NYPD was preparing for the 10,000 bikes that will take to the streets upon the launch of the city bike-share program, Cassidy said, “We are developing something.” He did not offer details, and evaded a question about whether the department is including cyclists in the process.
- Adam White, the attorney who last week earned a victory in civil court for the family of cyclist Rasha Shamoon, told council members that in incidents where a cyclist avoids a collision with a motor vehicle but is still injured, NYPD proceeds as if no other vehicle was involved (“the bicyclist fell,” in police parlance), leaving victims without driver insurance information and hampering efforts to pursue civil action.
- Attorney Steve Vaccaro urged council members to press NYPD to initiate meetings between the public and the Accident Investigation Squad, which currently operates in relative secrecy. Vaccaro also questioned NYPD’s allocation of resources. “It shouldn’t take two cops to fill out an MV-104 [report] for a fender-bender,” said Vaccaro, when crashes involving injury get so little attention.
- NYPD officials repeatedly refused to provide even the barest of details on what they referred to as “open” investigations, including whether AIS was dispatched to the scene of certain crashes. Council members were told that during crash investigations, which can take six months to a year, NYPD used to contact victims’ families to give updates, until the department decided it was troubling to the families and therefore “not a good idea.”