The car that got slapped with 63 tickets, including 34 speeding tickets and seven red light tickets, is parked in the foreground of the general mess at the 23rd station house in East Harlem. Photo: Julianne Cuba
The fight to save our streets from recklessly driving cops now has a poster child. Streetsblog’s ongoing investigation into police officers who repeatedly speed and run red lights unearthed a true sociopath in blue on Tuesday: An Upper East Side cop with 63 summonses—including 34 camera-issued speeding tickets and seven tickets issued for being caught on camera running a red light—since 2014.
Streetsblog does not yet know the identity of the officer or employee at the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem with the atrocious record, but looking at the long record of his or her moving violations, it’s likely that the repeat offender lives in Queens.
Frankly, it’s not hard to keep up with this dangerous driver.
His reign of terror began in May, 2014, having been caught on camera twice in three days for speeding on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside. The vast majority of camera ticket recipients never get caught again—but not this guy. He was just starting.
- In 2015, he received 14 more camera summonses—13 for speeding and one for running a red light. All but one of them were in Queens. And all but one of those were in or near the same spot in Sunnyside: Queens Boulevard and 36th Street.
- In 2016, he was caught on camera committing 10 more moving violations—nine for speeding and one for running a red light. Again, all of the speeding tickets were near Queens Boulevard and 36th Street.
- In 2017, he got three more speeding tickets in Queens.
- Last year, his six moving violations included two for speeding and four for running red lights—again, in basically the same area as the others.
- And already this year, he has gotten six more tickets—five for speeding and one for running a red light.
Under a pending bill by Council Member Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) that would allow the city to immobilize cars that have gotten more than five camera tickets in a 12-month period, this cop’s private vehicle could have been impounded several times over.
If only this cop was the only repeat offender…
Streetsblog has been chronicling the horrific driving records of cops’ private vehicles ever since Mayor de Blasio said he wanted to build or lease more free parking for NYPD officers as a perk for their hard work. Studies show that free parking dramatically increases the likelihood that someone will drive to work—which is particularly a problem when those drivers are cops.
In four days of running the plates on cars parked in NYPD-only parking spaces outside 11 station houses in Brooklyn and four in Manhattan, we checked out 593 police personal cars and found:
- 461 cars—or 78 percent—had received some ticket or summons.
- 348 cars—or 59 percent—had been slapped with a serious moving violation such as running a red light or speeding.
- And 224 cars—or 38 percent—were repeat offenders of the most serious moving violations, with two or more.
“Reckless driving is a deadly problem. I’m troubled by the Streetsblog investigation showing high rates of repeated speed-camera and red-light violations for personal cars in officer parking spaces at NYPD precincts,” Lander said. “We need to take reckless driving far more seriously, whether those endangering the lives and safety of their neighbors are everyday New Yorkers, City Council Members, taxi/FHV drivers, or NYPD officers.”
Our latest effort focused on Manhattan, where there was an even higher percentage of serious violations. In the 1st, 5th, 23rd and 19th precincts, Streetsblog found:
- 174 total cars.
- 149 cars had received at least one parking or moving violation ticket — or 85.6 percent
- 107 cars had at least one serious moving violation, such as speeding or running a red light. That’s 61 percent.
- And 60 cars were repeat offenders for the most serious violations, or 34.5 percent.
One reminder: Camera-issued summonses are issued automatically when a driver exceeds 10 miles per hour above the speed limit. The tickets are sent to the car’s owner—in these cases, police employees—though we can’t be certain who was driving the car at the time of the infraction. That said, many officers get out of tickets when they are pulled over by fellow cops, who are less likely to write a ticket to a colleague.
The worst offenders in the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct were one cop with 24 parking tickets and another with four speeding tickets and a red-light ticket.
The Upper East Side should, apparently, count its blessings.
In Chinatown’s 1st Precinct, for example, the worst offenders included one cop with five speeding tickets; one with three speeding tickets and four red light tickets; one with 10 tickets overall, including five for speeding and one for a red light; one with 10 red light tickets and one speeding ticket; one with five red light tickets and six speeding tickets (another person whose car could be impounded under Lander’s bill); and one with five red light tickets and one speeding ticket—all in a tight-enough time frame that he or she could also have the car taken away under the bill.
In Tribeca’s 5th Precinct, the worst offenders include: one cop with six speeding tickets; one with five; one with nine speeding tickets; and one with 14 speeding and six red light tickets.
But nothing compares to the horrors committed by cops affiliated with the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem. In addition to the cop with 63 overall tickets, there was one cop with eight speeding tickets and three red light tickets and two cops with five speeding tickets and one red light ticket.
We asked City Hall to comment on whether the mayor is concerned about all these reckless drivers, and mayoral spokesman Seth Stein said only, “The Administration is concerned about anyone who drives recklessly, regardless of their job.”
Stein declined to answer a follow-up, seeking information on whether the city has a disciplinary program for dealing with cops like the sociopathic 23rd Precinct driver.
Stein’s comments came one day after de Blasio dismissed Streetsblog’s questions about why he wants to build more parking for officers whose driving endangers the public they are meant to serve. We wanted to know if the mayor was worried about his plan to encourage even more driving. Here is his answer in full (minus a bit of testiness between the mayor and this reporter):
I disagree with that on its face. … The fact is these are our first responders, we expect them to show up no matter what. We expect them to stay when we need them to stay. A lot of them live quite far from where they work. It is important for everyone to drive safely. That’s what Vision Zero is all about and Vision Zero is filled with consequences and you are seeing more and more consequences each year. But it makes no sense to say, “OK, we know a lot or our uniform service officers have to drive to work and we are not going to give them a park.” That makes no sense. We are clearly very adamant that everyone has to follow the rules and there are consequences for those who don’t. But if we want to stop placard abuse we need to do something about the root causes.
In a follow-up question, we asked the mayor about his use of the words “have to” in relation to commuting by car. Certainly, 51 percent of the police force lives outside the five boroughs, but the base salary of a New York City police officer is $85,292 after five years on the force, an income that is roughly $35,000 above the citywide median income. There is no way police officers “have to” drive to work because there is no way a police officer has to live outside the city on that salary.
Again, the mayor was irritated.
“I just said it in the beginning of my answer and I said it in the beginning of my answer last time,” he said, referring to a similar question Streetsblog had asked when the parking plan was first introduced. “Because a lot of them live very far away from the city, there’s not always great mass transit options, a lot of them have to stay all sorts of hours, a lot of them have to show up on short notice. It stands to reason.”
It actually does not, said the co-director of Transportation Alternatives, the safe streets advocacy group.
“These numbers are beyond disturbing,” said Marco Conner. “They reveal a law enforcement agency acting with impunity and protecting its own, to the detriment of all New Yorkers.”