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NYPD Doesn’t Want to Track NYC’s 38,000+ Annual Hit-and-Run Crashes

There have been 38,000 hit-and-run crashes in NYC so far this year, 4,000 of which injured people, the NYPD revealed at today’s City Council transportation committee meeting. Of 48 recorded “catastrophic” hit-and-run incidents, resulting death or serious injury, only 28 have led to prosecutions of any sort.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer has introduced bills to increase civil penalties for repeat offenders and require NYPD to release more information about the results of hit-and-run cases. NYPD Inspector Dennis Fulton expressed support today for the former but not the latter.

Van Bramer said that increasing civil fines for repeat offenders could discourage dangerous driving by partly addressing the “perverse incentive for drunk drivers to flee the scene.” Currently, criminal penalties for fleeing the scene are less severe than the ones for drunk driving. City legislation can't address that flaw -- only Albany can (and Albany's attempts have gone awry). But the city can adjust civil penalties.

In the case of repeat hit-and-run offenders, the bill would establish fines of "up to $1,000 if property damage results from the incident; $2,000 to $5,000 if a person is injured; $5,000 to $10,000 if there is a serious injury; and $10,000 if death results."

Fulton was on board with that, but he opposed another bill requiring NYPD to include statistics regarding civil penalties in hit-and-run cases in its quarterly reports to the Council, saying the department lacked the “technical ability” to track details of hit-and-run incidents citywide.

In 2014, the City Council passed a law requiring NYPD to provide quarterly reports on hit-and-run incidents, but Fulton said that specifics that could be helpful in guiding preventive practices -- such as time of day and location -- are currently only tracked at the precinct level.

“Notwithstanding these potential [technical] challenges, we welcome the opportunity to work together on this legislation,” Fulton said in his statement to the committee. But Van Bramer and other council members were unimpressed by NYPD’s efforts to hold hit-and-run perpetrators and repeat offenders accountable. According to Fulton, of the 38,000 total cases, only 480 drivers were arrested and another 475 received moving violations.

Council Member Jimmy Vacca expressed frustration with NYPD’s admitted shortcomings in tracking hit-and-run statistics. “Is this the only area where we have these gaps? We are told that crime is down, we are told that there is reporting accuracy, yet today there was a gap that was identified,” he said. “I would like to know whether or not that’s more prevalent.”

Today's hearing confirmed what advocates have been saying about hit-and-run crashes for years: They are an epidemic. In an interview with Streetsblog this afternoon, Van Bramer said that while he knew hit-and-run incidents posed a major safety concern, he was “stunned” by the numbers disclosed at the hearing. “I don’t believe anyone has heard of that number in a public forum before today,” he said.

Calling the technological shortcomings “shocking” and “disappointing,” Van Bramer said the NYPD’s testimony reaffirmed the importance of both proposed bills. “We should compel the NYPD to come up with the technology that makes this possible,” he said. “The commissioner and his team should be able to do it.”

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