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NYPD Investigated 1 Percent of Hit and Run Crashes With Injuries or Deaths

By Jeff Mays | December 2, 2015 5:40pm
 Police at the scene of a hit and run accident that left a 46-year-old woman critically injured. The woman was hit as she crossed the street at Fourth Avenue and Union Street at 12:38 p.m. on Nov. 5.
Police at the scene of a hit and run accident that left a 46-year-old woman critically injured. The woman was hit as she crossed the street at Fourth Avenue and Union Street at 12:38 p.m. on Nov. 5.
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Roy Renna / BMR Breaking News

NEW YORK CITY — There have been 38,000 hit-and-run car accidents so far this year, but the NYPD has only investigated 48 of them, a top police official said Wednesday.

Testifying before the City Council as it considers legislation to stiffen civil penalties for hit-and-runs, Inspector Dennis Fulton of the NYPD's Transportation Bureau said 34,000 of those crashes involved only property damage.

But 4,000 ended in injuries, including 31 deaths. The NYPD's collision investigation unit has looked into 48 — or just 1 percent — of those 4,000 cases, resulting in 28 arrests.

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said he was "shocked" by the numbers.

"In light of these figures, we call on Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bratton, and the City’s district attorneys to confer without delay and put together an action plan to combat the scourge of hit-and-runs,"  White said.

Under legislation being proposed by Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, civil fines for repeat hit-and-run drivers would be increased. If property damage results, the offender would face a $1,000 fine. They would face fines of $5,000 to $10,000 in hit-and-run cases resulting in injury or death.

A second piece of legislation would require information regarding civil penalties to be included in a quarterly hit-and-run report.

“The NYPD’s shocking statistics really show just how important it is for our city to punish the 4,000 people who hit another human being with their vehicle just this year, left them to die on the street and thought they could get away with it,” Van Bramer said.

"We are sending a message directly to hit-and-run drivers: If you hit someone and leave the scene of the crash, we will find you and punish you to the fullest extent of the law," he added.

The figures come after a spate of fatal pedestrian car crashes where at least 12 people were killed across the city in less than two weeks.

The incidents led to criticism of one of de Blasio's signature proposals, Vision Zero, which is designed to eliminate traffic fatalities. De Blasio defended the effort, saying it has already worked to reduce deaths and that more initiatives would be unveiled.

De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the city is open to discussing solutions.

“Under Vision Zero, we are dedicated to holding accountable drivers who injure or kill, and then flee the scene," he said. "We’re open to discussing additional penalties, although we want to ensure any changes work in tandem with criminal laws already on the books.”

From the beginning of the year until Nov. 8, there were 192 traffic fatalities, 107 of which have been pedestrians. At the same time last year, there were 226 fatalities, including 119 pedestrians. That represents a 15 percent reduction in total fatalities and 10 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities.

The NYPD announced it would increase enforcement against reckless drivers after the string of deaths.

White said he supports Van Bramer's legislation because it would "lead to a uniform, predictable application of existing penalties for leaving the scene of a crash" and allow for "comprehensive data about the scale of the hit-and-run problem in New York City" to be gathered and used to work on solutions.