The Police Department has moved to examine three times as many crashes this year as last, focusing new attention and resources on another manner of violent death in the streets — the victims walking, riding bicycles or in a vehicle. Resources include more detectives, including a Collision Technician Group — a newly formed, 12-person crime scene unit for traffic accidents and high-tech mapping tools . The head of the Highway Patrol division, which oversees the collision squad says “This is a high priority now.” The city’s prosecutors welcome the change, which they said had already generated more cases.
NYPD has also changed it policy: the Collision Investigation Squad (formerly the Accident investigation Unit) used to be called only to fatal crashes or those in which emergency room doctors deemed a victim likely to die. Now, whenever a paramedic lists a patient as critical, Collision Investigation Squad detectives respond.
The squad’s policy was the subject of a City Council hearing in February 2012 and a federal lawsuit filed last June over the death of a pedestrian, Clara Heyworth, who was struck by a vehicle on a Brooklyn street in 2011. The suit alleges a “systematic failure” by the Police Department to investigate serious crashes. CHEKPEDS had testified at those hearings along Transportation Alternatives. We are grateful to the victims’ families for dedicating their time and resources to obtain systemic changes that will benefit us all.