You Can’t Catch Speeders If You Don’t Have a Radar Gun

For a while, it seems, City Council Member Steve Levin was the only person in the 76th Precinct with a radar gun -- the local police didn't have one until last week. Photo: Elizabeth Graham/Brooklyn Paper

Here’s how unconcerned the New York Police Department is with deadly traffic violations: For at least a month, and possibly longer, reports DNAinfo, Brooklyn’s 76th Precinct went without a radar gun.

Perhaps due to said lack of a radar gun, the 76th Precinct issued almost no speeding tickets in 2012 until this month: all of five from January through April [PDF]. In that time, over 60 percent of all moving violations the precinct issued were for just two violations, cell phone and seat belt use.

After acquiring a new radar gun, the precinct issued eight speeding tickets on Hicks Street in a single day last week, according to DNAinfo, more than doubling their previous total.

By going without a radar gun, the 76th Precinct couldn’t perform the essential task of keeping its citizens safe. Speed kills. According to the Department of Transportation, a pedestrian struck by a car moving 40 miles per hour has a 70 percent chance of dying. A pedestrian struck by a car driving the city speed limit of 30 miles per hour has an 80 percent chance of survival.

Just one month ago, 5-year-old Timothy Keith was killed by a cab driver in the 76th Precinct, on Hicks Street. Keith, who is deaf, ran into the street. The driver said he couldn’t stop in time, and no charges were filed against him.

It’s a good thing that the public can use radar guns, even when the police don’t. In March, City Council Member Steve Levin clocked 88 percent of drivers on Atlantic Avenue exceeding the speed limit. The westernmost section of Atlantic, near the BQE, is in the 76th precinct.

If it takes a tragedy and community pressure for precincts to even bother to buy a radar gun, much less to make speeding a priority, it speaks volumes to the NYPD’s prioritization of traffic safety. The unwillingness of the police to ticket speeding drivers is as strong an argument one can make for the necessity of using automated cameras – unavailable in NYC until Albany passes the enabling legislation – to catch dangerous speeders.