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NYPD Precinct Where Driver Killed Ally Liao Announces Walking Crackdown

Council Member Peter Koo, Congress Member Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike “Don’t Call Me” Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim
Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike “Don’t Call Me” Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim want to ticket people for walking in a precinct where traffic enforcement is lax and law-breaking drivers keep killing.
Council Member Peter Koo, Congress Member Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike “Don’t Call Me” Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim

An NYPD precinct in Queens where law-breaking drivers have killed several people this year has announced a crackdown on walking.

On Monday, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, commanding officer of the 109th Precinct, stood with Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, Assembly Member Ron Kim, U.S. Representative Grace Meng, and City Council Member Peter Koo to tout a “plan to increase ticketing against pedestrians who jaywalk,” DNAinfo reported. The precinct's campaign is “supported by local politicians who say pedestrians who violate the rules of the road endanger themselves and others," wrote reporter Katie Honan.

The 109th Precinct is where a motorist hit 3-year-old Allison Liao and her grandmother as the two walked hand in hand in a Main Street crosswalk, killing Allison. The driver assumed full responsibility for the crash.

The precinct will spend a couple of weeks instructing people on how to walk, then ramp up enforcement against those who do it incorrectly.

"Elected officials are going to start getting phone calls when people start getting summonses, I know it," said Simanowitz. "Don't call me. I'm not going to agree with you. If you're crossing in the middle of the street, you're wrong, you're endangering yourself, you're endangering others, you're endangering drivers.”

"Cross at the green, not in-between, and hopefully we will be able to reduce the number of traffic fatalities," Simanowitz said. Whatever that means.

Motorists have killed five people walking in the 109th Precinct in 2015. Of those victims, three were killed by hit-and-run drivers and one was in a crosswalk crossing with the signal. According to DNAinfo, Monday's announcement was prompted by the death of 84-year-old Agalia Gounaris. Gounaris was fatally struck on Main Street at Kissena Boulevard on November 5 by the driver of a casino bus, who police later tracked down in Connecticut. Witnesses said multiple people ran over Gounaris as the octogenarian laid in the street.

Police and elected officials blamed Gounaris for “walking mid-block.” But if Gounaris wasn’t crossing at the corner, it may have been because she felt it was unsafe.

"I almost got hit six or seven times walking across the street," a witness told WNBC. "This area right here has to be dealt with," said another local. "They're always turning very sharp, and if you're not careful you can be hit." Koo called for speed humps in the area where Gounaris was hit.

An unidentified man and Mariano Contreras were killed in April and October, respectively, by motorists who left the scene. Another victim, Jao Lin Zhu, age 80, was fatally struck in a crosswalk on Main Street at Maple Avenue by a driver who was charged under the Right of Way Law.

Motorists injured 190 pedestrians and 62 cyclists in the precinct as of September, according to DOT data. Two motor vehicle occupants were killed and 534 injured in that time frame, a sign that many car crashes occur at high speeds. On average, the 109th Precinct issues fewer than two speeding tickets, and between two and three failure to yield summonses, a day.

DOT data show the vast majority of pedestrian injuries and deaths are not self-inflicted, but are caused by driver carelessness. If Deputy Inspector Conforti and local electeds want to protect people, they could pursue a campaign to catch and prosecute hit-and-run drivers, or crack down on motorists who endanger people in crosswalks. Targeting victims of traffic violence won't make streets safer for anyone.

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