UPPER WEST SIDE — Police officers from the 20th Precinct only wrote a handful of speeding tickets over the past month, despite being armed with more high-tech radar guns that were expected to help snare scofflaw drivers.
From Feb. 8 to March 6, officers in the 20th Precinct issued just six summonses for speeding, but far more for other traffic violations — including 27 for drivers with tinted windows, said Sgt. Felicia Montgomery, the precinct's lead traffic officer.
The precinct — which runs from West 59th to 86th streets, between Central Park and the Hudson River — saw 150 crashes involving vehicles during that same period, with officers handing out a total of 1,160 summonses, she said. Eighteen of those collisions resulted in injuries to 20 individuals.
"For the 28-day period, yes it’s low," Montgomery acknowledged of the number of speeding tickets handed out.
The number sounds especially small when compared with other categories, such as the 22 citations given to cyclists during the same 28-day period, said Community Board 7 member Ken Coughlin at a meeting with Montgomery Tuesday.
None of the crashes involved a cyclist hitting either a pedestrian, another cyclist or vehicle, and three cyclists were struck by cars, the data showed.
"I’m willing to bet that 80 to 90 percent of the cars I see on Central Park West are speeding," said Coughlin, noting that the city's speed limit is now 25 miles per hour, a change he doesn't think drivers are obeying.
The low rate of speeding tickets stems from a lack of resources at the precinct, Montgomery said.
Out of 125 officers at the 20th Precinct, only three are assigned to focus on moving violations like speeding full-time. Other officers can write summonses when they get a chance and aren't occupied with other duties.
These three officers, plus two others assigned to targeting cyclists and parking violations, wrote 78 percent of the summonses in the precinct during the Feb. 8 to March 6 period, she said.
In terms of catching speeders, "it all depends on which officers are working and if they’re assigned to other things," Montgomery said.
Additionally, setting up speed traps in the area is difficult, she noted.
The precinct has two LIDAR speed guns, a technological improvement from the guns previously used, she said. However, these guns can't really be set up during the morning rush hour, Montgomery added, without elaborating on the reason.
Instead, officers use the LIDAR guns in their cars or on the side of the street typically during the eight-hour overnight or "midnight" shift, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, she said.
However, data showed that the crashes happened most frequently from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. over the 28-day period.
There are also certain corridors where it's easier to set up the radar. "Central Park West and the lower end of Broadway and West End Avenue is a good location," Montgomery said.
This past month, Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway had the most crashes, with 31 and 34, respectively, the data showed.
The low number of speeding tickets given out in the most recent 28-day period is not a new trend for the 20th Precinct. During the first three months of 2014, the precinct reported handing out a total of 18 speeding summonses.
At the time, Montgomery said more officers were being trained to use the radar guns, noting that would yield an increase in speeding summonses.
Board members reiterated that they wanted to see more speeding summonses given out in the precinct.
In other areas of the city, like Jackson Heights, officers have ramped up their ticketing under Vision Zero.
For example, that neighborhood's 115th Precinct gave out 72 tickets during the 28-day period between Jan. 19 and Feb. 17.