Park Slope’s police precinct has made cracking down on drivers its signature issue, but the neighborhood’s girls and boys in blue have handed out many fewer tickets so far this year than most other Brooklyn precincts.
The neighborhood’s 78th police precinct gave out 2,104 moving violations from January to March, a 252 increase from the first three months of 2013, which probably has something to do with the series of ticketing blitzes it has gone on since January, including an undercover failure-to-yield-to-pedestrians sting operation and crackdowns on parking in bike lanes and unlicensed dollar vans. But the total is less than the amount doled out by all but 3 of the borough’s 23 precincts. Among the area road-safety activists who are quick to criticize those they perceive as going easy on motorists, the 78th’s light-on-citations record has plenty of defenders. One said that the precinct owes its popularity to making nice with the neighbors.
“The 78th has made a name for itself because it has done a tremendous amount of positive community outreach,” said Keegan Stephan, an organizer with the group Right of Way.
For the sake of comparison, the 75th Precinct in East New York handed out 5,694 traffic summonses in the first three months of this year, the most of any Brooklyn station house despite logging a 382-ticket drop from last year. But the 75th’s most-written tickets by far were for tinted windows (987) and the miscellaneous “Other” category (1,298), while it wrote just 71 for failure to yield to pedestrians and 89 for speeding, the categories pedestrian and cyclist advocates say are the most important.
“It’s about quality, not quantity,” Transportation Alternatives lawyer Juan Martinez said.
In Park Slope and Prospect Heights, where officers wrote two-fifths the amount of tickets of their East New York counterparts overall, they cited 90 drivers for speeding and 85 for failure to yield, up from 55 and 17 by this time last year, respectively.
The goal of the driver-pinching movement backed by Mayor DeBlasio’s Vision Zero plan is to change behavior, not to punish people or stir up revenue, so tickets should not be the primary measure, though they have been the Slope cop shop’s calling card, Stephan said.
The precinct’s commanding officer said that comparing ticket totals is apples and oranges.
“Some of the precincts have different sizes of commands,” said Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri. “You can’t compare precincts to precincts. You have to be concentrated on where the accidents happen.”
One Slope road warrior echoed the notion that other neighborhoods have more reckless motorists to worry about.
“It wouldn’t surprise me that there are a number of precincts that have issued more violations, because frankly, there are some neighborhoods that have bigger problems with speeding and dangerous driving than Park Slope does,” said Eric McClure, founder of the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership, which is pushing to make the neighborhood a 20-mile-per-hour zone.