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New York Cops Injure 10 in Crash While Racing to Prevent a Car Theft: Reports

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New York Police injured 10 people Thursday afternoon after a cruiser rushing to the scene of a potential car theft at high speed in a busy Bronx neighborhood clipped another car and jumped onto the sidewalk, striking a group of people, according to reports.

Police responded to reports of a potential car theft around 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon in the Bronx neighborhood of Longwood. The crash occurred at the corner of Westchester and Hoe Avenues, ABC7 reports. The cruiser was traveling at a high rate of speed, attempted to pass a car by hopping over the double yellow line, and clipped an Acura making a left turn. The crash forced the cruiser onto the sidewalk where it hit four people. The crash was so forceful the cruiser knocked down a traffic pole, which injured two more people, including a 2-year-old, The New York Times reports. Two occupants in the Acura and two police officers were also injured in the crash. ABC7 spoke to some of the witnesses at the scene:

The collision was so violent that it took out a traffic pole. Witnesses say the police cruiser was flying down the street, and it happened so quickly that there was no way to get out of the way.

“They couldn’t even move. Somebody is going to die,” said Yamil Irazariy.

The cruiser with its lights on is seen crossing over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic. Then an Acura at the light made a left turn into the cruiser, clipping it and sending it onto the sidewalk.

“The lady, you know, like her flying up and s*** her legs and she was bleeding from her chin and from her cheek all the way down to her chin,” said one eyewitness named Anthony.

[…]

“I really want to commend the members of the 41 precinct because they were trying to get here, they weren’t trying to prevent that crime. They were trying to apprehend someone that was attempting to steal a vehicle,” said [Jeffrey B. Maddrey, the NYPD’s chief of patrol.]

That statement from Chief Maddrey is pretty confusing. They weren’t trying to prevent a crime, but prevent someone from committing a crime? Luckily he clarified to the Times:

“Of course we don’t want to see anybody injured, especially when the officers were trying to do the right thing,” he said. “They were trying to prevent a crime in progress, they were trying to apprehend someone who was ready to victimize a good person in the Bronx.”

[…]

“They were trying to prevent that crime, but unfortunately the accident allowed that person to steal the vehicle,” he said.

While a car theft is certainly unfortunate, those four people lying in the hospital with life-threatening injuries, including the 5-year-old, are also the good people of the Bronx, and they were also victims of something. And while the cops don’t want to see anybody injured, they don’t seem to really care enough to prevent it. The New York Times has a rundown of just what police crashes and pedestrians deaths cost the city:

The number of pedestrians injured and killed by vehicles in the five boroughs has begun to climb again as life has returned to normal after the height of the pandemic in 2020, when the number of pedestrian fatalities fell to 60, according to the city’s Transportation Department.

A total of 76 pedestrians have been killed this year as of Sept. 27, the most recent date for which data was available from the department.

Property damage and personal injuries from accidents involving police vehicles cost the city about $46 million in settlements during the 2021 fiscal year, according to a city comptroller’s report released in June.

The NYPD gives cops significant leeway in deciding whether to pursue suspects, and officers are meant to use their best judgment. That seems like a policy that may need to change. In a city as dense as New York, 146,824 people live split between the Longwood and Hunts Point neighborhoods, according to the NYU Furman Center. The two neighborhoods account for less than a square mile in size. There’s no way the streets weren’t crowded and busy when the cops initiated this mad dash through the neighborhood.

A study that looked at fatalities between 1994 and 2002 found there were 3,146 fatalities during police chases, many were not the subject of the chase:

Of the 3146 fatalities, 1088 deaths were of people not in the fleeing vehicle and 2055 to people in the fleeing vehicle (table 1). Altogether 102 (3.2%) of the fatalities were non-motorists, 40 were police officers, 946 (30.1%) were occupants of vehicles uninvolved in the police pursuit, and three were unknown. Most of the innocent deaths were motor vehicle occupants, with 102 being either pedestrians or bicyclists.

The Washington Post pointed out back in 2015 police chases kill “…more people each year than floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning — combined.” A police chase not ending in an arrest isn’t just normal, it’s very common. A 2020 investigation of nearby New Jersey police pursuits found most police chases start over something as simple as a traffic violation, The Appeal reports:

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, an investigation by Andrew Ford of the Asbury Park Press into police vehicle pursuits has found that “New Jersey chases usually start with a traffic violation and usually don’t end with an arrest. … Even when someone is arrested, they’re usually not charged with a violent crime.”

“New Jersey police pursuits killed at least 63 people in the past decade and injured more than 2,500. Nearly half the people injured were bystanders and cops,” wrote Ford. More than half of those killed in vehicle pursuits were not in the car being pursued.

Among cities, “Newark police car chases killed black residents at a higher rate than any other city in the country, the last decade of federal fatal crash data shows.” Furthermore, the chases only led to arrests in fewer than half the pursuits, about 40 percent of the pursuits led to crashes, and nearly 1 in 5 resulted in injuries. The city police department did update its policies in 2017, restricting the circumstances under which police can initiate pursuits, which led to fewer chases, crashes, and injuries in 2017 and 2018.

All this maiming and destruction over a non-violent car theft. This is why we need to end traffic stops, but in particular, police pursuits.

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