Liu: Increase NYPD Crash Investigation Staff Six-Fold

Buried in Comptroller John Liu’s ”People’s Budget” proposal released last week (way below the part about bridge tolls that New Yorkers don’t have to pay) is an interesting proposal about NYPD’s crash investigation staffing.

With additional revenue, largely from income taxes and the bridge tolls for non-residents, Liu proposes increasing the staff level of the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad to 177, part of a broader plan to hire 5,000 more officers by 2017. From the proposal:

The lack of personnel to investigate traffic crashes is limiting the City’s ability to identify the causes of crashes and mitigate unsafe conditions, as well as defend itself from lawsuits. In FY 2011 there were 243 killed and 3,138 seriously injured in traffic crashes, but only 304 crashes were investigated by the NYPD. Traffic related claims against the City resulted in $105 million in liability payments and judgments by the City.

Last year, what was then known as the Accident Investigation Squad had a staff of 19. Commissioner Ray Kelly has increased the size of the squad by 50 percent, but the staffing is still far out of proportion to the number of serious crashes that occur each year.

While the comptroller has absolutely no power over NYPD staffing levels, Liu’s proposal puts the idea out there that the department can increase crash investigation resources to the point that all serious traffic injuries will be looked into by trained personnel.

“The fact that this Comptroller proposed increased funding for street safety — particularly in the area of crash investigations — should make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that more needs to be done to protect New Yorkers from dangerous drivers,” said Transportation Alternatives in a statement.

Through a spokesperson, Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr., chair of the public safety committee, also expressed strong support for Liu’s proposal to increase the size of NYPD’s collision investigation staff.