When Traffic Enforcement Doesn’t Include Moving Violations

trucks_in_soho.jpg
The streets of Soho, where trucks roam free

If you have an eye for New York City traffic mayhem, then you know those "Where's a cop when I need one" moments. This is about a mayhem moment when a cop was right there -- and did nothing. It took place last November, a little before 6:00 pm on a weekday. A big truck fleeing a traffic jam had just barreled down my residential street, going the wrong way. Among the pedestrians in its path were two traffic enforcement agents. Great, I figured, I'll actually see a driver get a ticket.

It didn't happen. The traffic agents did nothing, even after I approached them and suggested that they, at least, talk to the driver.

So, on Nov. 13, I sent a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to inform him of the incident. What follows is the text of my letter to Kelly, followed by the NYPD's response, which arrived four months later. (Note that although the NYPD letter was dated Dec. 2006, the  police didn't get around to mailing it until March 2007.)

November 13, 2006

Mr. Ray Kelly
Commissioner
NYC Police Department
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY 10038

Dear Commissioner Kelly:

I witnessed a frightening incident last Thursday evening (Nov. 9) that I believe warrants action by the NYPD.

At 5:52 pm, a heavy-duty truck, probably in the 20,000-lb class, made an illegal left turn from Hudson Street onto Duane Street in lower Manhattan and drove west, the wrong way, on east-bound Duane Street to Greenwich Street. I estimate its speed to have been 20-22 mph. At the T-intersection of Duane with Greenwich, the truck slowed only enough to negotiate a left turn. This block of Duane Street, where I live, is heavily pedestrianized, and in fact pedestrians had to scatter to avoid being struck in the striped crosswalk running from the southeast corner of the T-intersection to the northeast corner.

What was equally frightening, and even more upsetting, is that two uniformed NYPD traffic enforcement agents who were in the Duane Street crosswalk at that time did nothing to intervene.

The two officers had just begun crossing from the southeast to the northeast corner when the truck barreled through. I was a dozen feet away and ran over to the officers to ask them to summons the driver (at that moment the truck was standing in the traffic queue on Greenwich Street north of Reade Street, no more than 150 feet away). Both officers refused my entreaties to pull over the truck, even though one, Officer Rignola, admitted having seen it drive the wrong way on Duane Street and aggressively turn in front of him.

I understand that TEAs are limited in the violations they can issue. But I cannot believe that their duties require them to ignore both a violation of this gravity and a request for help from a citizen.

I would like to hear from the department what the two officers should have done. Please also let me know what steps will be taken to ensure that they, as well as other officers attached to the 1st Precinct, intervene to protect the public from similarly marauding vehicles in the future.

Sincerely,

Charles Komanoff

PS: I wish to commend Officer Rignola for giving me his name. I know it's required by regulations but I still appreciate his courtesy.

Photo: Jeevs via Flickr