UPPER WEST SIDE — Police want to train more officers to use radar guns to help curb speeding in the neighborhood, where traffic accidents and fatalities have become an even more pressing issue than violent crime, NYPD officials said.
Currently, only six police officers at the 24th Precinct are qualified to operate radar guns, said Capt. James Dennedy at a precinct community council meeting Wednesday night.
Dennedy said he would like to add at least four more qualified officers through additional training, following a spate of car crashes involving pedestrians in the neighborhood.
"I’m trying to get more people radar qualified," he said. "Only one [officer] on every squad is trained and they have to respond to 911 calls, too."
Dennedy noted that some of the officers who were trained have been moved to more administrative roles.
The precinct's commitment came a day after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton helped outline the city's "Vision Zero" traffic death reduction program, saying that in the last two years, 70 percent of car accidents involving a pedestrian were attributable to either failure to yield or speeding.
During the 28-day period ending Feb. 16, there were 16 speeding summons issued in the precinct, compared to 12 during the same time period last year, he said.
Manhattan North Commanding Officer Chief James Secreto, who also attended the meeting, was not impressed with the increase in speeding tickets.
"Sixteen is not a number that overwhelms you, for sure," he said, adding that speeding will be a major focus of the department going forward.
"We are worried about the traffic fatalities. Last year we had 24 [traffic fatalities in Manhattan] and we had 27 murders [in Manhattan.] It’s pretty much a bigger problem than shootings or murders."
Residents said that despite increased police focus on the intersection of West 95th and Broadway, where two pedestrians were killed last month, they still feel frightened by cars racing through the intersection.
Julie Kowitz Margolies, a mother who lives near the site where Cooper Stock, 9, was killed on Jan. 10 at West End Avenue and West 97th Street, said cars fly through the intersection to get to the West Side Highway.
"We have unbelievable speeding. People are going like 40 miles per hour. They are flying down the hill," she said of westbound traffic.
The DOT has said it will fix the timing of the lights so that westbound traffic does not hit a series of green lights, which potentially encourages speeding through intersections.
"These days traffic has become a bigger issue than crime," Dennedy said.