Friday, March 15, 2013

No Criminality Suspected Ride

Last night, a group of cyclists made their way out into the streets with stencils in hand, riding to spaces where cyclists and pedestrians have been killed by automobiles from Brooklyn to Queens and Manhattan in the last few months.  At each site, they pulled out paint cans, spraying murals of painted bodies in red paint.  In yellow paint, the cyclists added the words: "Killed by Car.  No Criminality Suspected.  Why Ray Why?"

Through such actions, cyclists hope to extend dialogue about creating safer streets for all New Yorkers, pedestrians and cyclists alike.   An article about the stencils in the Gothamist resulted in some one hundred comments after just one day.
"Great that the NYPD won't call them accidents any longer, but perhaps they should also retire the immediate knee jerk reaction that 'no criminality is suspected,'" noted Paco of Trans Alternatives.  "Intentional or not, injuring or killing someone with two tons of steel and no penalties should not be the norm."

"When I was hit by a van, the police didn't even make the driver remove the rolls of carpeting that obstructed his view, let alone give a summons," noted Wendy Brawer,  founder of Green Map System. "I can't imagine the families' anguish."  

The day after the stenciling, cyclists with Times Up! led a tour to seven memorials forpedestrians and cyclists killed by law breaking drivers absolved of criminality by the NYPD, although they  committed 
traffic violations.  Yet within hours of each crash the NYPD declared there was “No Criminality Suspected,” and the accident investigation reports were never released to the public, or members of the victims’ families.

“The NYPD is charged with investigating serious crashes and enforcing traffic laws including the requirement that motor 
vehicles be driven with due care, yet in each of these cases, and in the vast majority of cases in which pedestrians and cyclists are killed by automobile, the NYPD declared “no criminality suspected” notes traffic analyst Charles Komanoff.

Last year, the city council held an extremely critical hearing of the NYPD’s traffic investigations. In response, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly sent a March 4th letter to City Council Chair James Vacca detailing changes that will be made. In it, he says the department will replace the word accident with collision, increase its staff by 10 people, and begin investigating instances of critical injury as well as death. However, less than two weeks later, Tenzin Drudik was killed by a van that sped onto a sidewalk and the driver was released with “no criminal charges” because they deemed the crash an “accident.” The driver spilled milk on his lap.  Over the last 6 days, seven pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by automobile and not a single driver has been charged with a crime.

Attorney and traffic-law expert Steve Vaccaro urges that, “In clearly delineated situations, acts of traffic violence should be presumptively criminal--no matter how prevalent instances of such violence may be at present -- with an opportunity for the driver to rebut the presumption.”

“By declaring ‘no criminality suspected’ within hours of deadly crashes and yet refusing to release their investigations, the NYPD is whitewashing traffic violence to the public, withholding potentially emotionally-healing information from grieving families, and robbing safer-streets activists of the information they need to best advocate for a livable city,” says organizer Keegan Stephan.  The Criminality Suspected Ride highlighted this question.

The first stop painted last night was where an unidentified women was killed on January 1, 2013 on the South Side of 23rd street.

This was followed by a stop on East 26th street between 3rd and Lexington where Mir Hossain was killed on January 20th.   

The first stop was for a cyclist.  The others pedestrians. #3, #6, #7, #8 were on sidewalk. #1, #3, #7 were female.  None of them should have died.  The investigations for their deaths should be opened up for the public.

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