Pat Lynch Makes the Case for Automated Traffic Enforcement

If there’s one thing to glean from the story of Joseph Spina — the NYPD officer who got caught on tape telling a motorist, “Mayor de Blasio wants us to give out summonses, okay?” — it’s that NYC needs more automated traffic enforcement.

Whatever you think of NYPD’s decision to suspend Spina without pay, the incident has brought to the surface the disdain that officers feel for enforcing traffic laws. If police are so squeamish, maybe the job should be entrusted to a system that doesn’t get embarrassed by the prospect of protecting New Yorkers from speeding and careless driving.

One officer told the Post he blames the mayor “all the time” when issuing traffic citations. And PBA President Pat Lynch, the man NYPD rank-and-file elected to represent them, complained that Vision Zero “boils down to police officers enforcing traffic laws” (right, can you believe it?) and “subjecting New Yorkers to expensive summonses that many cannot afford to pay.”

For the record, NYPD traffic summons activity in 2014 and 2015 did not measurably increase compared to the previous three years under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. What shifted was the proportion of tickets issued for the most dangerous violations — speeding and failure to yield.

More to the point, Lynch doesn’t seem to care in the least about saving New Yorkers from the anguish and pain caused by dangerous driving.

Back when City Hall was trying to get its speed camera expansion bill through Albany in 2014, Lynch’s position on traffic enforcement sounded a lot different. “The city would be better served and public safety could be vastly enhanced by hiring more police officers and assigning them to traffic enforcement,” he said.

Even then, however, it was clear that Lynch viewed traffic stops as a means to ends other than simply preventing drivers from running people over — calling them opportunities to make arrests for “offenses like carrying an illegal weapon.”

Now, at least, the pretense has been stripped away. The PBA doesn’t want to enforce traffic laws. New York needs a much more robust automated enforcement system to do the job police dread doing.

  • mattkime

    well stated

  • Joe R.

    Funny that these same officers don’t care about the expensive summonses they issue to cyclists for sidewalk riding or red light violations. I’ve little doubt a greater percentage of cyclists can’t afford these summonses than car drivers. Not to mention in many cases the system requires you to go to court, potentially missing a day’s pay.

  • Emmily_Litella

    Great logic and truth. We can’t that be a basis for attracting readers and viewers to traditional media?

  • gneiss

    Harassing out groups, like people riding bikes, is a perk of the job. Pulling over poor working stiffs just like them who broke a tiny, weeny, no harm, no foul law like speeding? That’s a travesty.

  • bolwerk

    I think someone finally discovered a way to keep the NYPD from bothering cyclists. Just a little disguise and you can be as big a shithead as you want on a bike!

  • Brian Howald

    In their defense, I think many police officers resent having to give out tickets to cyclists as well. Maybe not as much as tickets for driving 36 mph…

  • Jared R

    NYPD typically live suburban lifestyles. They regularly drive and are not conditioned to having empathy for pedestrians. Where NYPD cops live, pedestrians are weirdos that can’t afford a car. This is how NYPD cops were raised. It is their world. The City is a “zoo” full of “animals” that need to be tamed. And if those animals are run over by the civilized class in automobiles (who takes the train anyway?!), so be it. One less animal in the zoo. This is obviously an exaggeration, but only a slight one. Most blue collar, suburban folks think this way. I was one of them before I got out.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Infrastructure Solves this, NYPD can never be depended on to enforce speeding laws. Their suburban hate-the-city ethos will not change until They get Out of Their cars.,DOT has a toolkit to apply;

    1) 10′ motor Lanes
    2) Pedestrian bump outs
    3) Signals Timed for 25 MPH
    4) Adjusting textures to calm traffic ( cobblestones, speed bunps, etc )
    5) Exclusive Bus Lanes
    6) Bollards for traffic calming,,illegal Parking Prevention
    8) Daylighting at corners
    9) Market clearing pricing for street Parking
    10) Snow emergencs Reform ( nö Parking on avenues during snow emergency )
    11) Greenstreets
    12) Pedestrian Plazas
    13) Safe Streets in from of schools ( ie no driving during school days )
    14) Sunmer Streets – expanded

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    As I got the walk sign the other evening and stepped into the crosswalk a driver ran the red and then did a u-turn back through the crosswalk. I thought to myself that in a better NYC with automated traffic enforcement he would have been issued two tickets. (and of course the camera would have memorialized him failing to yield as well)

  • I suspect that the reason they blame the mayor is less to do with being ashamed of giving out tickets than it is to do with smearing the mayor to people. “You’re getting this ticket because the Mayor hates you, not because you broke the law”

  • simon

    great editorial.

  • Guest

    Pat Lynch not only makes the case for more automated enforcement, but also for a RICO investigation into his protection racket!

  • Bobberooni

    Police traditionally spend a lot of time time giving out large fines to a small number of egregious violators. Automated enforcement can routinely mail smaller fines to a larger number of moderate violators. Few people will drive 36mph in a 25mph zone if they KNOW they will receive a $30 ticket every time.

    The biggest arguments for automated traffic enforcement are that: (a) it’s more effective than cops, (b) it’s cheaper than hiring cops, and (c) it allows us to deploy our cops elsewhere. Why do we bother making traffic laws if we can’t bring ourselves to enforce them?

  • djx

    Yes, but not just blue collar.

  • dporpentine

    Pat Lynch *is* the case for automated traffic enforcement.

  • JoshNY

    If only there were some way for these poverty-stricken motorists to avoid receiving traffic summonses that they can’t afford to pay.

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