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Info. About NYC Car Crashes Hard to Get

The New York Police Department appears to be reluctant to provide information about car accidents to the public, even after the City Council passed a law requiring NYC law enforcement to make accident data available. In contrast, the department has enthusiastically embraced providing information about car thefts.

The department provided an interactive map of seven different types of felony crime incidents. This included grand larceny of a motor vehicle and six other serious felony crimes. However, the assistant commissioner of intergovernmental affairs, Susan Petito, said that providing map information about motor vehicle crashes as well would only confuse the public.

According to Petito, speaking in October of this year, crash reports are based on the nearest intersection, rather than a street address, using the New York State accident reporting form. When asked by a City Council member whether the police would join with the council in lobbying Albany to have the form changed to allow for street addresses or GPS coordinates, Petito said that she didn't think that using street addresses would add anything.

The NYPD has historically been reluctant to share traffic accident information, despite repeated efforts from lawmakers to require them to do so. Additionally, New York City police have a long history of not charging or citing violators of traffic laws, even when such violations lead to injury or even death. Even though there is a new law on the books requiring the NYPD to provide traffic crash information, compliance has been lacklustre at best.

After the law passed, NYPD limited its data to PDF files. Petito told the council last year that the department felt that publishing the accident information in spreadsheet form would allow it to be manipulated by people who hope "to make a point of some sort." It has since published required data in spreadsheet form, but has yet to map the information to provide an "at-a-glance" view of dangerous intersections. It almost appears as if the department didn't want citizens to know which intersections needed improvement.

However, the NYPD is apparently eager to show drivers where they should take steps to protect their cars, if not their safety.

Source: Streetsblog, "Ray Kelly Sees Value in Mapping Car Thefts, But Not Car Crashes," Dec. 10, 2013.

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