Bill Bratton Says NYPD Needs to Make Tackling Traffic Fatalities a Priority

Categories: Bill Bratton

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The once and future commissioner?
If you ask him point-blank, former New York City Police commissioner Bill Bratton will tell you -- as he's told reporter after reporter in the last few weeks -- that he has not yet been asked back to his old job by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. But he certainly seems to be preparing himself for the call if it comes.

Preparing, basically, by being the opposite of Ray Kelly. (Even before Kelly called de Blasio "full of shit" in a recent Playboy interview, de Blasio had said he would not keep Kelly on as top cop.)

Consider his appearance Tuesday at New York University (a feat in its own right, considering Kelly's recent experience at Brown University). At the Transportation Alternatives event, Bratton called traffic fatalities a "critical area" for New York, in which "more can be done" -- a position in perfect step with de Blasio's vision for a traffic-fatality-free city.

Bratton's attitude stands in contrast to the response Kelly has given to similiar questions as commissioner. When asked what the NYPD was doing to reduce traffic fatalities by a reporter for the Atlantic earlier this year, Kelly said investigations are complicated. "It takes in-depth investigation and examination, it takes witnesses, it's much more complex than you might think."

See also: NYPD's Ridiculous Advice for Pedestrians: "Avoid Walking in the Dark and During Bad Weather"

At NYU, Bratton told the audience victims of conventional crimes have declined in recent years, but "victims of traffic crime -- while also declining -- are now on par to equal almost the victims of violent crime."

There were 274 traffic fatalities in 2012, and 414 murders. As of September of this year, there had been 189 traffic fatalities in New York City, and 240 murders.

"There is an increasing opportunity for even further gains, moving towards Mayor de Blasio's goal of zero fatalities," Bratton said Tuesday. (In August, de Blasio's campaign released a three-page document detailing his goal to eliminate traffic fatalities altogether.)

See also: If Bill Bratton Returns to the NYPD, He'll Be Trailing Conflicts of Interest Like Toilet Paper on an Old Man's Shoe

Of New York City's 274 traffic fatalities in 2012, more than half of those killed, 148, were pedestrians.

"One of the great things about this city is that it is so much a walking city. Similar to what occurred in the '90s on crime, more can be done to deal with this issue," Bratton said. He added he'd like to ride a bike occasionally, but "I don't feel comfortable riding a bicycle on the city streets."

New Yorkers will have to wait and see if de Blasio -- who touted Bratton's community policing credentials throughout his campaign when seeking a contrast to Kelly -- is serious about him.

But if de Blasio is sincere about reducing traffic deaths, Bratton might just be the man for the job. As Streetsblog notes, his first public service gig was "on his elementary school's walk-to-school safety patrol."

Send story tips to the author, Tessa Stuart

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