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Posts from the "NYPD Crash Investigations" Category

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Hit-and-Run Driver Not Charged in Death of Queens Pedestrian Mosa Khatun

A hit-and-run driver who fatally struck a woman in Jamaica last night will not be charged with a crime, according to NYPD.

Police say the driver who killed Mosa Khatun returned after leaving the scene, but did not know she had hit someone. No charges were filed. Photo: Daily News

NYPD says the driver who killed Mosa Khatun returned after leaving the scene, but did not know she had hit someone. No charges were filed. Photo: Daily News

Mosa Khatun, 38, was struck by the driver of a Nissan SUV at the corner of Highland Avenue and 169th Street at around 10:20 p.m., according to NYPD and the Daily News:

Emergency responders rushed to the scene and found the woman on the pavement with traumatic injuries to her body, officials said.

She was taken to Queens General Hospital in critical condition, but died there a short time later, officials said.

The News reported that the driver left the scene and “returned about an hour later to talk with police.” An NYPD spokesperson confirmed this account, and said the motorist, whose name is being withheld by the department, ”Wasn’t aware she’d hit someone.”

It is not clear why the driver returned to the crash site if she did not know a crash occurred. Nevertheless, while NYPD issued summonses for careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian, police filed no charges for leaving the scene. As of this morning, approximately 12 hours after Mosa Khatun was killed, NYPD had concluded its investigation.

Leaving the scene of an injury crash is a class D felony in New York State, punishable by up to seven years in jail. Yet drivers in New York City routinely escape penalty simply by claiming they “didn’t see” their deceased victims. As in this case, rather than allowing the justice system to determine innocence or guilt, police and prosecutors often decline to pursue charges.

According to Transportation Alternatives, of some 300 investigations conducted by the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad in 2012, around 60 involved hit-and-run drivers, and just 15 of those investigations resulted in arrest. In December the City Council passed legislation requiring NYPD to post quarterly reports on hit-and-run crashes that result in “critical” injury.

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Council Transpo Committee Passes NYPD Hit-and-Run Transparency Bill

The City Council transportation committee passed a bill today that would require NYPD to issue quarterly reports on hit-and-run crashes and investigations.

Originally, Intro 1055 would have had NYPD report to the council every two years on hit-and-runs resulting in serious injury or death. The language of the bill was tightened after sponsor Leroy Comrie and other committee members heard testimony from transportation experts and family members of victims earlier this month.

In its current iteration, the bill would mandate that the department report in writing every three months on the total number of “critical injury” hit-and-run crashes, the number of crashes that resulted in arrest, and the number of crashes for which no arrest was made. ”Additionally,” the bill reads, “the department shall provide to the speaker of the council in writing a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate each such incident, noting the cross streets of the incident.”

The bill defines critical injury as “any injury determined to be critical by the emergency medical service personnel responding to any such incident.”

The bill passed with an unanimous 11-0 vote, with no abstentions. It is expected to be voted on by the full council tomorrow, at the last stated meeting of the year. The law would not take effect until July of 2015.

NYPD did not show up for the December 4 hearing. Streetsblog has a message in with the public information office asking if the department has a position on the bill.

Said bill co-sponsor Peter Koo: “Today’s piece of legislation will increase transparency and accountability, ensuring NYPD is using all the tools at its disposal to investigate hit-and-run accidents.”

“This is not the first time the council has heard testimony from families of individuals who feel they have not received enough information,” said James Vacca, who was chairing his last transportation committee meeting of the current term.

Of his chairmanship, Vacca said, ”This has been a wonderful experience. Transportation affects everyone.”

It is not known if Vacca will continue to occupy the transportation post or move to a different committee chairmanship. ”I want to continue doing something here,” he said, “and we’ll see what that is.”

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Senior Killed by Bus Driver in Bronx; Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Man in Queens

Two NYC pedestrians were killed by motorists over the weekend. One of the victims was a senior; the other was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the City Council district represented by Eric Ulrich, where at least five pedestrians have died in traffic in 2013.

Gloria Mabry. Photo via Daily News

Gloria Mabry. Photo via Daily News

Last Friday evening at approximately 6:45 p.m., 74-year-old Gloria Mabry was walking to her Bronx home when she was hit by an MTA bus driver. According to reports, Mabry was pushing a grocery cart along Co-Op City Boulevard when the bus driver struck her while turning left from Co-Op City Boulevard onto Dreiser Loop.

From the Daily News:

Mabry ended up getting caught under the rear wheels of the bus, horrified witnesses said. Paramedics rushed Mabry to Jacobi Medical Center, but doctors were unable to save her.

“My mother was 74 years old and bringing home a cart of groceries,” Mabry’s son, Reginald Mabry, told News 12. “There’s no way whatsoever that a vehicle going a safe speed could not have seen that little lady.”

“It wasn’t immediately clear if Mabry had the light when she was crossing,” reported the AP. In other words, it’s not known who had the right of way. The NYPD public information office had no details on how the crash unfolded, or whether summonses were issued. A spokesperson said the investigation was “ongoing,” which often means police are awaiting toxicology reports on the victim.

Mabry was killed in the City Council district represented by Andy King, and in the 45th Precinct, where as of October local officers had issued 227 speeding tickets in 2013, and 16 citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian.

At around 3:15 a.m. Saturday, Yunior Antonio Perez Rodriguez, 35, was struck as he tried to cross Woodhaven Boulevard at Jamaica Avenue. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. The driver fled the scene.

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Bill Bratton Will Be the Police Chief Tasked With Implementing Vision Zero

Photo: Transportation Alternatives

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has selected Bill Bratton to serve as New York City’s next police commissioner. Bratton occupied the same post from 1994 to 1996 under the Giuliani administration and is credited with pioneering data-driven policing techniques. After Bratton left, one of the innovations his deputies introduced was TrafficStat, a system that tracked crash data, held precinct commanders accountable for street safety performance, and brought different agencies together to address problems.

De Blasio pledged during his campaign to adopt a “Vision Zero” strategy for street safety — setting out to eliminate traffic deaths in New York City. In 12 years of Ray Kelly’s leadership, NYPD street safety policy stagnated and regressed. Bratton will have to make some major changes to realize the Vision Zero goal.

TrafficStat meetings, once open to the public, have become closed-door sessions. Despite advances in information technology, NYPD has fought against making basic information available about where crashes are happening and what causes them. As firearm violence has declined, traffic deaths now outnumber murders by guns, but relatively few resources are devoted to enforcement on surface streets and crash investigations. When police do look into fatal or injurious crashes, the investigations are cursory and shielded from public view. Simply put, Ray Kelly’s NYPD did not take traffic violence seriously.

In remarks at today’s press conference announcing his appointment, Bratton acknowledged that traffic violence poses as grave a risk to New Yorkers as other types of crime. “This year, the number of people who will die on our streets will almost equal the number of people murdered,” he said. “This will require an expanding commitment. The mayor has committed to that going forward.”

At a forum organized by Transportation Alternatives last month, Bratton said “more can be done” in the “critical area” of traffic enforcement. While he said jaywalking enforcement was a useful tactic when he ran LAPD, he also said that “one of the great things about this city is that it is so much a walking city.”

Advocates are optimistic that Bratton will make the prevention of traffic deaths and injuries a higher priority than his predecessor. TA Executive Director Paul Steely White sent this statement:

To achieve his Vision Zero goal, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is smart to appoint Bill Bratton to lead the NYPD. Traffic deaths and serious injuries are epidemic in New York City, and the police department has a significant role to play in eliminating them. More New Yorkers are killed in traffic than murdered by guns. At a recent panel discussion presented by T.A. and NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, Bill Bratton demonstrated that he understands the urgent need to use data-driven traffic enforcement across the city to target reckless and deadly drivers and save lives.

For years now, NYC has been a national leader in re-engineering streets for greater safety, while Ray Kelly’s NYPD has lagged behind. Soon, it’s going to be Bill Bratton’s police department.

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Vaccaro: NYPD Coerces Injured Hit-and-Run Victims to Not Pursue Charges

The City Council transportation committee met today to gather testimony on NYPD hit-and-run crash investigations, but NYPD didn’t send anyone to the hearing. The committee also took up a bill that would codify updates to DOT’s innovative Street Design Manual.

Family members of hit-and-run victim Dante Dominguez, with Council Members Rosie Mendez and Leroy Comrie. Photo: ##http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/flushing-hit-and-run-inspires-council-bill/article_232113e3-a3d4-5ca0-97dd-f26b871953ca.html##Queens Chronicle##

Family members of hit-and-run victim Dante Dominguez, with City Council Members Rosie Mendez and Leroy Comrie. The driver who killed Dominguez was not caught. His brother says NYPD did not start its investigation until a week after the crash. Photo: Queens Chronicle

Intro 1055 would require NYPD to report to the council every two years on hit-and-run crashes that result in serious injury or death, including the number of crashes per precinct, and to provide “a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate each such incident.” Bill sponsor Leroy Comrie said today that hit-and-run fatalities have increased by 31 percent since 2010, with 47 deaths in 2012.

“The families want to know if NYPD has thoroughly pursued all avenues of evidence in actively finding the perpetrators that claimed their loved ones,” said Comrie. “They deserve to know the status of their investigation and what they can realistically expect to happen. And the public needs to know that these crimes are not simply swept under the rug, but actively pursued.”

Comrie also wants NYPD to collect video evidence within a five block radius of hit-and-run crashes, though this would take the form of a resolution, rather than a law, since the council believes it can not force the department to change the way it handles crash investigations.

During testimony, Juan Martinez, general counsel for Transportation Alternatives, said hit-and-run collisions are “perhaps the most callous criminal act that a driver can commit.” Of some 300 investigations by the Collision Investigation Squad in 2012, Martinez said, around 60 involved hit-and-run drivers. Of those, only 15 resulted in an arrest.

Martinez said more oversight would lead to better enforcement. “Government can’t manage what it can’t measure,” he said.

Attorney Steve Vaccaro joined Martinez in suggesting changes to the hit-and-run bill. Martinez recommended crash data be shared with the public as well as the council, and Vaccaro said reports should come once or twice a year, instead of every other year. Said Vaccaro: ”I think this data is going to show there’s a big problem here.”

Vaccaro testified that, based on his firm’s experience with clients and other crash victims who seek guidance over the phone, New York City police officers often refuse to take a report on a hit-and-run unless an injured victim agrees to be transported to a hospital by ambulance. This can be a deterrent for victims who have no health insurance, or who are not aware of coverage available to them through the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation, which offers compensation for crashes caused by uninsured drivers. Many times, Vaccaro said, victims are traumatized to the extent that they don’t realize they need medical care until hours after a crash.

Shockingly, in some instances Vaccaro said NYPD officers threaten not to include a perpetrator’s license plate number in a report, if it is known to police, unless an injured victim agrees to not pursue a criminal case. “Hit-and-run is a criminal offense that needs to be treated as one,” said Vaccaro. “Someone should not be forced to choose between insurance and compensation for their injuries and seeing the driver who injured them and then drove off from the scene brought to justice.”

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Public Still Doesn’t Know Why Cy Vance Failed to Charge in Sian Green Case

Last Friday WNYC ran a piece in which Bronx vehicular crimes chief Joe McCormack explained why he thought Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance failed to file charges against the cab driver who drove onto a Midtown sidewalk and severed the leg of tourist Sian Green. The story offers valuable insight into the mindset of prosecutors, but key questions about the case remain unanswered.

The public still does not know how Cy Vance decided that the driver of this cab, who hit two people and severed a woman's leg, should not be charged. Photo: @BraddJaffy

The public still does not know how Cy Vance decided that the driver of this cab, who hit two people and severed a woman’s leg, should not be charged. Photo: @BraddJaffy

McCormack said that in order to charge Faysal Himon with a crime, the Vance team would have to prove intent. ”What we look at in the criminal arena is when the mistake is greater than ordinary negligence and rises to criminal negligence,” McCormack said. “And what a defendant can be charged with depends on case law.”

Reporter Kate Hinds also points to the “rule of two,” an arbitrary standard that holds that a New York State motorist who is breaking at least two traffic laws at the time of a crash may be charged with criminal negligence, as a possible factor in the decision not to charge Himon.

Civil attorney Steve Vaccaro believes Vance might have gotten a conviction on misdemeanor charges — third degree assault and second degree reckless endangerment — that don’t require prosecutors to prove intent. As for case law and the “rule of two,” recent decisions by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, have made it harder for prosecutors to secure ironclad convictions against motorists who injure and kill. But does that mean reckless drivers can’t be held accountable for maiming and killing innocent bystanders?

One Court of Appeals case in particular looms large: People v. Cabrera, which held that reckless driving had to be “morally blameworthy” to sustain a homicide conviction. Maureen McCormick, head vehicular crimes prosecutor in Nassau County, explained the Cabrera ruling to Streetsblog in 2009:

[A]s recently as May 2008, New York’s highest court held that a 17-year-old driver who violated his junior license by driving with four unrelated passengers, without seatbelts, and who also was speeding at 70-72 mph through a curve with a posted caution speed of 40 mph, and who lost control sending the car over an embankment and killing three of his passengers, could not be held criminally liable. This decision alone has resulted in numerous defense motions to have cases dismissed claiming that “speed alone” or any traffic infraction “alone” is not sufficient to sustain criminal negligence.

McCormick continued: “Our position is that this is nonsense. A person driving 100 mph in front of the court on Centre Street in Manhattan at lunch time when the streets are flooded with pedestrians MUST be chargeable with a crime.”

Court precedents do have a chilling effect, but as McCormick indicates, the “rule of two” is a defense strategy. It’s up to prosecutors and police to decide whether they want to cede the argument by never filing charges in the first place.

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NYPD Issues Careless Driving Summons for Death of Bronx Senior

A 66-year-old woman struck by a driver last week in Hunts Point was at least the 29th senior killed by a New York City motorist in 2013, and the third person killed by a driver in the City Council district represented by Maria del Carmen Arroyo in five weeks.

Maria Montalvo. Photo via News 12

Maria Montalvo. Photo via News 12

Reports said Maria Montalvo was in a crosswalk at Hunts Point Avenue and Lafayette Avenue last Friday at around 10:40 a.m. when the driver of a Nissan pickup truck struck her while making a left turn.

From DNAinfo:

Moments after the crash, Montalvo’s husband and adult daughter rushed to her side from their nearby apartment building. O’Neill, who has known the family for 35 years, declined to give their names.

“He went to his wife, looked down and lost it,” he said.

Montalvo’s daughter was equally emotional, screaming, “It’s my mother, what happened, who hit her?” according to O’Neill.

Montalvo died at Lincoln Hospital. News 12 reported that the 55-year-old male driver was issued summonses for failure to exercise due care and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

The crash happened in daylight hours, and Montalvo walked with a cane. So if this incident occurred as reported, it’s pretty clear that the victim died as a result of negligent behavior on the part of the driver. Still, it’s impossible to know exactly what factors led NYPD to issue summonses.

Careless driving was intended to be a default infraction for crashes that injure vulnerable street users. But in the hands of NYPD it is reserved for very serious injuries or fatalities, and is seemingly used in place of criminal charges. Historically, fewer than 1 percent of New York City drivers who injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving.

Reckless drivers have killed three people in Arroyo’s council district since the start of October. Witnesses said the motorist who hit 74-year-old Candida Acosta of Mott Haven on November 5 was speeding and ran a stop sign before jumping a curb and slamming into an apartment building. The driver was not charged or summonsed by NYPD. Nor was the school bus driver who ran over Genielle Laboriel on October 2, as the victim was riding a skateboard across E. 160th Street from a Melrose Avenue sidewalk.

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No Charges: Witnesses Say Driver Who Killed Bronx Senior Ran Stop Sign

A senior was killed in Mott Haven Tuesday by a motorist who witnesses said sped past a stop sign before striking the victim, jumping a curb and slamming into an apartment building. The driver was not charged or summonsed by NYPD.

Candida Acosta. Photo: DNAinfo

According to reports, Candida Acosta, 74, was crossing E. 141st Street at Beekman Avenue at around 11:05 a.m. when the driver of an Infiniti SUV struck her, then drove onto a sidewalk, knocked down a street sign, hit a building, and crashed into a stoop with sufficient force to trigger the vehicle’s airbags.

After the SUV stopped, a child exited the vehicle, bleeding from her mouth. The Daily News and News 12 said the 47-year-old driver and her 8-year-old daughter were hospitalized.

From DNAinfo:

Multiple witnesses, including the man who called 911, Ali Nagi, told DNAinfo New York that the SUV was going about 35 MPH and rolled a stop sign before hitting Acosta.

Witnesses also told WABC the driver ran a stop sign. One woman said more people could have been hurt. “If that building wouldn’t have stopped that car, all those people would have died plus people that are on that sidewalk,” said Mercedes Rivera, a friend of the victim.

Acosta suffered severe head and body trauma and died at Lincoln Hospital, reports said.

No charges were filed against the driver, and no summonses were issued. News 12 reported on Tuesday that, according to unnamed sources, “it’s possible the driver may receive a summons.” As of this morning the NYPD public information office had no updates. Streetsblog asked for the driver’s name, but a spokesperson said the department would not release that information unless the driver had been arrested.

Acosta was at least the second person killed by a motorist in the past month, and the fourth in 2013, in the City Council district represented by Maria del Carmen Arroyo, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. We talked with Arroyo’s spokesperson, who said the council member is out of town. The spokesperson said he would try to obtain the police report on the crash that killed Acosta, and pledged to follow up with Streetsblog next week.

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No Charges Filed for Pedestrian Deaths in Jamaica and East New York

NYPD says the department doesn't know who had the right of way when Sheila Rivera was fatally struck by a driver on Pennsylvania Avenue at Glenmore Avenue in East New York. Image: Google Maps

Editor’s note: As we were finishing up this story, Gothamist reported that a 36-year-old cyclist was killed this morning in Claremont, and that another cyclist struck by a truck driver in Downtown Brooklyn earlier this month has died from his injuries. We will have more on these fatalities in a future post.

Two pedestrians were killed by motorists in Brooklyn and Queens Monday. No charges were filed by NYPD in either case, and as usual, other than a routine bit of victim-blaming, details on these deadly acts of vehicular violence are scarce.

At approximately 7:20 p.m., 50-year-old Sheila Rivera was hit by the driver of a Honda SUV as she crossed Pennsylvania Avenue at Glenmore Avenue in East New York, according to Gothamist and the Daily News. Gothamist reported that Rivera lived seven blocks from the scene. She died at Brookdale Hospital.

The driver was reportedly traveling north on Pennsylvania Avenue at the time of the crash. It is not known how fast the driver was going, or who had the right of way. The NYPD public information office had no specifics on how the crash occurred. No summonses were issued and no charges were filed.

Sheila Rivera was killed in the 75th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Erik Martin Dilan.

At approximately 7:50 p.m., a man reported to be in his 40s was struck by the driver of a Honda SUV on Jamaica Avenue near 180th Street. Police told Gothamist and the Daily News that the victim was crossing mid-block. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. As of this morning his name had not been released by police. NYPD said no summonses were issued and no charges were filed.

This unidentified pedestrian victim was killed in the 103rd Precinct, and in the council district represented by Leroy Comrie.

Note that despite department policy that purportedly prohibits the release of information on traffic crashes, NYPD again offered details that point to the culpability of one of the dead victims, and nothing more. While police readily leak to the media that a pedestrian was struck by a motorist outside a crosswalk, driver speed is virtually never disclosed. If the pedestrian was struck while walking in a crosswalk, information on right of way is nearly impossible to extract.

A 2012 study by Transportation Alternatives found that 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws. A 2010 DOT pedestrian safety report revealed that for serious crashes to which contributing factors were assigned, only 21.5 percent placed primary responsibility on “pedestrian error/confusion,” with the vast majority caused by driver inattention, failure to yield, and excessive speed.

Regardless of data showing that most pedestrians and cyclists struck by motorists were following traffic laws, those who read and watch daily coverage of NYC traffic crashes are left with the impression that most incidents are either blameless acts of nature or are precipitated by irresponsible behavior on the part of the injured or deceased victim.

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NYPD Charges 0.7 Percent of Drivers Who Injure and Kill With Careless Driving

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

Three years after Albany established the offense of careless driving, NYPD continues to apply the law in only a tiny fraction of crashes that result in the death or injury of pedestrians and cyclists.

There were 152 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the city in 2012, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, and 14,327 injuries. Of those 14,479 crashes, DMV data show NYPD cited 101 motorists for careless driving. That’s a citation rate of less than 1 percent.

It’s also the most careless driving citations issued by NYPD in a single year since Hayley and Diego’s Law took effect in 2010, when police wrote 99 summonses. In 2011, the first full year NYPD had the new law as part of its traffic enforcement toolkit, it was applied just 87 times.

The careless driving statute, part of Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1146, is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, toddlers who were killed in 2009 when a van, left unattended and idling, rolled onto a sidewalk in Chinatown. The driver was not charged by NYPD, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, or his successor Cy Vance.

Careless driving was intended as a minimum penalty to hold drivers who injure and kill accountable, in lieu of a more serious criminal charge. Under the law, drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists while failing to exercise due care are subject to mandatory drivers’ ed, and could be sentenced to fines of up to $750, jail time of up to 15 days, and a license suspension of up to six months.

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

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