Bratton: NYPD Will Devote “Intensive Focus” to Traffic Violence

At a press conference this afternoon for the ceremonial swearing in of Bill Bratton as police commissioner, Mayor Bill de Blasio took the microphone to express his administration’s commitment to its Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities within ten years. Bratton followed up with more remarks about how the department will prioritize street safety, saying NYPD will have an “intensive focus on traffic issues.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton talk about their commitment to traffic safety. Photo: NYC Mayor's Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton discussed their commitment to traffic safety this afternoon. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The difference between Ray Kelly’s message of complacency couldn’t have been more stark.

Today’s remarks come a day after incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg stopped on her way to de Blasio’s inauguration to speak with parents who lost children to traffic violence.

De Blasio said this afternoon that Trottenberg and Bratton will become “fast friends” as the administration pursues Vision Zero, its goal of eliminating traffic deaths within ten years.

Midway through the event this afternoon, de Blasio, unprompted by any reporter, jumped in to discuss traffic safety. Here are de Blasio’s comments, in full:

I just wanted to add one point. I really appreciate the fact that the commissioner is focused on some of the challenges we face when it comes to pedestrian fatalities and traffic fatalities. He’s a big believer in the vision in the direction that we’re going to take this city in, the Vision Zero concept. Gave a really fantastic speech just days before we made the final selection, I think it was at NYU, on that very topic.

And I had the honor of naming our new transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, a few days ago, and I can tell you that Commissioner Trottenberg and Commissioner Bratton are going to become fast friends as they focus on —

“She already lassoed me to the ground last night,” Bratton interjected, to a smile from de Blasio, who continued:

See? She’s a forceful leader. And so there’s going to be a real focus on taking on that challenge. It’s not crime, necessarily. Some end up being considered criminal incidents, but others are not. But it is a huge public safety problem and an area where we’re going to focus a lot of energy.

Bratton then took the podium:

Mr. Mayor, just looking at the reports this morning, that we’ve had at the beginning of the year two homicides and we’ve also had two traffic fatalities. Last year, I think the figures were pretty close. I haven’t seen the end-of-year figures of the number of people whose lives are lost in traffic-related incidents. A life lost is a life lost. A family grieves. So that intensive focus on traffic issues is going to be one of the areas the mayor’s asked us to prioritize.

At the November traffic safety forum de Blasio referenced, Bratton told the audience, “More can be done in this critical area. The time for this issue has come.”

Before the press conference, de Blasio and Bratton addressed NYPD brass during the commissioner’s swearing-in ceremony, outlining their policing philosophy and priorities. Traffic safety did not come up during these speeches. De Blasio instead focused on the continued reduction of other violent crime, terrorism, and reforming stop-and-frisk. Bratton emphasized his intent to improve neighborhood-level policing and repair the agency’s relationships with communities.

During the press conference, Bratton spoke about the department’s transparency with the public and the press, mentioning the real-time crime monitoring center developed by Kelly. “This is a phenomenal operation, and something I will open up to all of you,” he told the press. “I am a great believer in transparency, accessibility.”

TrafficStat meetings, where the department regularly coordinates its traffic enforcement priorities, have been closed to the public during Kelly’s tenure. Advocates have also called for better public data from NYPD about crashes, enforcement, and investigations, which the agency has either resisted or implemented piecemeal.

One early decision Bratton will have to make about traffic safety is the appointment of a new transportation division chief. James Tuller, who served as transportation chief under Kelly since 2009, left the NYPD in November to lead Puerto Rico’s police force.

  • Hart Noecker

    Reform stop and frisk by stopping and frisking anyone driving over 20mph. Problem solved.

  • J

    “A life lost is a life lost.” be it from a gunshot or from a careless driver. Bravo to Bratton for finally having the courage to talk about street safety in term of its actual effect on people and not just sweeping it under rug as Ray “Accidents Happen” Kelly did.

  • J

    Kudos to Streetsblog and TA, and a whole host of advocates for relentlessly pushing this issue and finally bringing it the attention it deserves. You guys have truly changed the nature of discourse about traffic safety and changed the direction that the city is heading. Well done!

    Now let’s work twice as hard to make sure they follow through.

  • Mark Walker


  • KillMoto

    Indeed. Seems like about half the roadway killings in NYC lately turn out to be committed by unlicensed drivers. Stopping more drivers for routine recklessness (running reds, speeding, etc.) can ID and punish these unlicensed drivers and others **before** they kill.

  • Glenn

    This is how movements mature. Now let’s hold them to all this.

  • anon

    Trying to stop an unlicensed driver who was driving recklessly has never ended badly.

  • NuYawka

    Hopefully this culture of reckless driving can be put to an end over the next few years. It’s of people enter this city and behave completely irresponsibly behind the wheel. Personally, I feel the yellow taxi company is one of the biggest incubators of this mentality.

    It’s going to take a mixture of strategic law enforcement and street designs to combat this problem. It’s vital for the DOT and NYPD to work together.

  • chekpeds

    A huge thank you to TRansportation Alternatives and Streetsblog for their relentless pursuit of this issue. De blasio comment on Bratton’s speech at Rudin center underlines the impact the campaign has had.
    I have to pinch myself to believe it. Ecstatic .

  • chuck

    Hopes are raised. Alert: Hopes have been raised.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    Bratton increasing street safety is the biggest F U he can give to Kelly, by showing how inept Kelly really was in his term. I look forward to it.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    If we’re so fearful the perp will act irresponsibly, then cops can’t approach anyone they suspect committed a crime. How would that work with people brandishing unlicensed weapons in public? The actions of a criminal can not be blamed on the cops unless they do something wrong. Stopping an illegal driver or firearm carrier is their job, they have to do it.

  • anon

    Cars come with quite a paper trail. They’re generally easy enough to find. If a cop thinks it’s too dangerous to stop a car that speeds off because there are a lot of pedestrians around? Get the license plate, maybe someone sees the car on a less crowded street. If not. Go to the guys home. The car is registered somewhere. And it was used in a crime. Impound it, arrest the owner. If they claim they lent it out? Figure out who, and arrest them instead. But still take the car until the investigation clears everything up. Registered out of state to someone’s grandmother? Hold her responsible if she won’t help you find her miscreant grandson.

    The choice isn’t between acting in the moment and not acting. If the police think they’ll be able to apprehend the criminal at a safer time later, and it’s expected that fewer people will be injured/killed if they’re granted that short reprieve, then why not pick them up later? If the issue is the cost of extra police work, then larger fines, auction the car if need be, whenever the police needs to put in that extra effort to find them.


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