NYPD Issues More Tickets to Drinking Pedestrians Than Speeding Drivers

NYPD issued more summonses for open container violations than for speeding in 2011, one of a number of law enforcement oddities revealed through data issued by police and compiled from court records.

Number of open container citations issued in 2011 by Brooklyn's 90th Precinct, where ##http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/12/07/how-to-hold-nypd-accountable-for-abuse-of-traffic-violence-victims/##Mathieu Lefevre was killed## last October: 6,192. Number of ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/pdf/090sum.pdf##speeding tickets## issued: 13. Image: New York World

Drawing on data obtained from city criminal courts, the New York World, a project of the Columbia Journalism School, analyzed summonses issued by NYPD in 2011, segregated by offense and precinct. There’s a lot to suss out — the World story focused on the number of “quality of life” tickets issued in precincts with large black and Hispanic populations — and the numbers make for interesting reading, especially when juxtaposed with NYPD traffic data.

Last year, police wrote 123,824 summonses for consumption of alcohol on public streets, according to the World report. They also issued 27,979 citations for riding a bike on a sidewalk. Meanwhile, according to NYPD’s December data dump [PDF], 76,493 speeding tickets were written to motorists in 2011, and 10,448 drivers were cited for failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian.

While speeding is common on city streets and is a leading factor in fatal crashes (responsible for 322 deaths from 2005 to 2008, according to the Department of Health), in 2011 NYPD issued more citations for tinted windows (82,307).

Officers handed out 10,375 summonses for violating park hours in 2011, and 11,740 summonses for reckless driving, according to the World. (Reckless driving and other traffic offenses were included in the World report because they ranked among the top 15 types of criminal court summonses issued.)

Some disparities seem to defy explanation. On the Upper East Side, the 19th Precinct issued 741 reckless driving citations — 226 more than the 34th Precinct in Washington Heights and Inwood, whose 515 represented the second highest total. The 34th Precinct wrote 623 summonses for suspended vehicle registrations, far more than any other precinct, yet issued just three tickets for violations of state transportation law Section 140, which delineates safety requirements for school buses, van services and other commercial vehicles.

One thing the numbers make clear: If NYPD has the resources to hand out 339 summonses for public drinking per day, the department should be able to assign more than 19 officers to investigate traffic crashes that result in serious injury and death.

Download summons data from the World here, and let us know what you make of it in the comments.

  • Joe R.

    My take is this is twofold:

    1) We have far too many police for the amount of real crimes we have when they result to fining people for behaviors that are generally harmless. Any mayor who promises to cut the police force by 2/3rds (and repeal NYC’s ridiculously restrictive gun laws so I can carry my own protection) has my vote.

    2) We have far too many silly laws on the books. Just about all of these “quality of life” laws should either be severely modified to apply only to the worst offenders, or repealed completely. Laws which make lawbreakers out of the majority of citizens are just bad laws.

  • Ben Kintisch

    I live in Bed-Stuy, where speeding is rampant. Several deadly accidents have happened around here recently. And I know that hardly any tickets are issued around here for dangerous or reckless driving. But open containers, tinted windows…you know there’s plenty of police on hand to prosecute that kind of thing.

  • Station44025

    It’s fairly obvious to the casual observer of driving habits, including speeding, that drunk driving is common in NYC, but I guess the “I’m in a car” force field makes it off-limits for the police to enforce?

  • Anonymous

    As Monty Burns once said. “Out of my way, I’m a motorist!”

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I guess the “I’m in a car” force field makes it off-limits for the police to enforce?”

    I thought the police were unable to take enforcement action against cyclists, because they aren’t required to have both personal licenses and license plates on their bikes?

    It seems the fact that few cyclists can outrun a squad car to avoid a ticket is more important.

  • Anonymous

    We have a police force that is still fighting the battles of the 80’s.  The city needs less overall law enforcement than it did 25 years ago, but the political clout of the NYPD has preserved most of the infrastructure that was developed for a high crime environment.

    Re-prioritizing police focus would be useful, but that is a second-order problem.  The first order problems come from just having too big a police department.

  • Nathanael

     J_12 is probably right.  The NYPD has turned into a self-preservation organization devoted to doing “more of the same” — which includes harrassing innocent people, via the illegal but well-documented “arrest quota” system.  NYPD needs to be hacked at with a chainsaw from the *top down*.


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