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Targeting Jaywalkers After Fatal Hit-Run is 'Victim Blaming,' Activists Say

By Katie Honan | November 11, 2015 3:47pm
 The push from the 109th Precinct in Flushing followed a meeting with local politicians. 
The push from the 109th Precinct in Flushing followed a meeting with local politicians. 
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FLUSHING — The NYPD's push to ticket jaywalkers in response to a woman's death last week is "victim blaming," and doesn't focus on the real issue of reckless drivers, according to a transportation safety group.

Transportation Alternatives's statement Wednesday was in response to DNAinfo's report that the 109th Precinct would embark on a two-week education initiative followed by enforcement to help stop jaywalking and other pedestrian behavior in Flushing.

The police crackdown is a reaction to the death of Agalia Gounaris, who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking against the light on Main Street last week. 

"It’s easy to blame victims," Transportation Alternatives spokesman Brian Zumhagen said in a statement.

"It’s harder to track down hit-and-run drivers, curb the culture of reckless driving and fix fatal streets designed decades ago when pedestrians were just an afterthought. We urge the NYPD and anyone concerned about traffic safety to focus their attention on proven countermeasures."


Police Crack Down on Upper West Side Jaywalkers after Death on W. 96th Street

Local elected officials disagreed, however, saying they're looking to stop all bad behavior — including reckless pedestrians who put themselves and others at risk. 

"We want to educate the public...they have to use the crosswalks to walk and they have to follow the streetlights," said Councilman Peter Koo, who called the meeting Monday at the 109th Precinct along with Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Ron Kim, State Senator Toby Stavisky, Assemblyman Mike Simanowitz and 109th Precinct Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti.

Transportation Alternatives attempts to crack down on jaywalkers "divert precious resources" from the real work of making streets safer — citing Commissioner Bratton's controversial crackdown on the Upper West Side last year, in which an elderly man was bloodied during an altercation with police officers who tried to ticket him for jaywalking.

They added that there are plenty of measures that are proven to work.

These include targeting drivers who speed and fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, initiatives of the city's Vision Zero, they said. 

"Most pedestrians killed in New York City traffic are struck while they are crossing streets lawfully — like 3-year-old Allison Liao, who was run over by an inattentive SUV driver in 2013 as she walked hand-in-hand with her grandmother, with the light, in a crosswalk not far from where Agalia Gounaris was killed," they added.