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Brooklyn Pol: NYPD Must Include Traffic Crashes In Crime Data

Council Member Mark Treyger. Photo courtesy of NYC Council, John McCarten

The NYPD must track road violence in the same way it tracks all major crimes in order to change the culture of how cops respond to and investigate fatal crashes, a Brooklyn pol is urging.

Coney Island Council Member Mark Treyger, who two months ago successfully got police to start including data on hate crimes within its world-renowned crime data portal known as CompStat, now wants New York’s Finest to do the same with traffic crashes so that the information is more readily shared with the public and is considered equally important as the so-called "seven majors."

“I don’t like the idea of separating that on a separate list, it sends the message that this is not as serious," said Treyger, who, with Council Speaker Corey Johnson, made a formal request to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea on March 9. "I believe that that creates a separate and unequal application of how we treat major crimes in New York City.  It sends a message to officers that traffic fatalities and reckless driving does not constitute a major crime category."

The NYPD launched CompStat in 1994, and it now includes the seven majors: murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny auto. In January, amid a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes and push from Treyger and his fellow legislators, the NYPD added hate crimes to its list, which are shared with the media at monthly press briefings, giving the stats a weight and measurability they did not previously have.

The NYPD has touted the creation of CompStat as a way of significantly reducing crime because it keeps police commanders accountable, and helps keep the public informed on a weekly basis. But Treyger argues that including crashes would hold police to the same standard.

"CompStat is what police captains live by in terms of monitoring progress in their precinct," he said. 

For instance, police care more about a stolen phone, which is considered grand larceny, than a reckless driver who killed a little kid, Treyger said. When precinct captains meet regularly with their superiors, the issues most discussed are the seven majors of CompStat, not traffic crashes.

And the same is true during monthly precinct community council meetings with the public, added Treyger.

“That means when (police) are called in by superiors, they’re spending more time talking about missing iPhones than they are about hit-and-runs. That is a culture change we need to institute in the police department," he said. "At precinct council meetings, there's not many conversations around traffic violence because they're not tracked on CompStat figures and most conversations are around CompStat." 

The rise in vehicular crashes and fatalities on city streets this year and last — when a record 29 cyclists and 219 pedestrians were killed — show the need to add crashes to CompStat, Treyger added.

“It's the same as hate crimes — what I identified was a disjointed, separate and unequal treatment and enforcement of hate crimes within the police department," he said.

Johnson believes it will help change the mentality towards vehicular crimes, according to his spokesman.

"The Speaker believes that including traffic fatalities in the overall crime statistics will help change the culture around traffic enforcement," Johnson's office said in a statement. "As the Council continues its fight for safe, livable streets, the Speaker will continue to look for ways to protect New Yorkers from traffic violence.”

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment. We will update this story if the agency responds.

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