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Leroy Comrie

Leroy Comrie Bill Would Force NYPD to Report to Council on Hit-and-Runs

12:10 PM EDT on May 15, 2013

Queens City Council Member Leroy Comrie is set to introduce a bill that may have an impact on how NYPD approaches hit-and-run crashes, which kill dozens of NYC pedestrians and cyclists a year.

A statement from Comrie's office says the bill would require NYPD to report to the council annually on "hit and run incidents that result in a fatality or severe injury with a description of all actions that were taken to determine who was responsible." Comrie also plans to introduce a resolution "calling for the NYPD to include the mandatory collection of video surveillance from cameras within the vicinity of a hit-and-run accident that results in a fatality or severe injury."

At least 37 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by hit-and-run drivers in NYC since January 2012, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. The vast majority of drivers involved in those crashes were not immediately caught or identified.

loophole in state law gives motorists who have been drinking an incentive to flee the scene of a crash, and many hit-and-run cases are closed when a driver says he or she did not see the victim.

Even when a perpetrator is identified and arrested, state laws make it difficult to bring a hit-and-run driver to justice. A felony charge of leaving the scene of an incident resulting in death requires prosecutors to prove that a motorist knew or had reason to know injury had been caused -- a burden that can be insurmountable.

We've asked Comrie's staff how the bill and resolution will define "severe injury." The new NYPD protocol, announced earlier this year, is intended to trigger investigations of incidents involving critical injury, a standard that excludes many crashes.

Technically, Comrie's bill won't make it easier to prosecute hit-and-runs. And the council has said it can't compel NYPD to change the way it conducts crash investigations, though the department's procedures are said to be in violation of state law. But by requiring NYPD to account for the way it handles hit-and-run crashes, it's possible those investigations will improve. If nothing else, Comrie's bill, if adopted, may draw attention to hit-and-run crashes and their many victims.

Comrie voted in favor of the proposed NYC speed camera demonstration program, now stalled in the state legislature, and is a supporter of red light cameras. He is scheduled to announce the hit-and-run bill and resolution this afternoon in Cambria Heights, at an intersection where a motorist was killed in a high-speed crash in 2012.

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