Concerns about Aggressive Enforcement of NYC Jaywalking Laws

Not everyone is in favor of the decision by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton focus on the jaywalking crackdown in the city. Although the task force is not an official part of the mayor’s “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities in New York City, the goals of the task force certainly mesh with those of the larger policy. In fact, Mayor de Blasio stated that educating the public about the dangers of jaywalking was a major part of his plan to curb traffic deaths.

Right of Way, a grassroots organization dedicated to street safety, has objected to the recent crackdown on jaywalking as a form of “victim blaming.” Although Right of Way generally supports the “Vision Zero” plan, group organizers have cautioned that the NYPD should be targeting reckless drivers, not pedestrians. The traffic safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives has echoed these sentiments, with members stating that NYC officials should be trying to protect “the most vulnerable users of our streets” by focusing on the reckless actions of drivers, not walkers.

There are a number of concerns being raised about the NYPD crackdown on jaywalking, including:

• The fines imposed are disproportionately punitive – Fines for jaywalking are determined by local departments, with some NYC courts imposing fines as high as $250.
• Denial of civil rights – Critics of the recent crackdown on jaywalking point to a violent incident that occurred as a direct result of the new enforcement policy. While targeting a particularly dangerous intersection at Broadway and 96th Street, NYPD allegedly assaulted an 84-year-old man who they saw jaywalking. Kang Chun Wong suffered visually disturbing injuries, including a severe gash to his head, when he was accused of jaywalking at the intersection and wrestled to the ground by police officers. An attorney for Wong indicated that he would be filing a civil suit against the city for $5 million. The concern generated by incidents like this is that greater safety for pedestrians in NYC will come at the expense of civil rights.
• Waste of government resources – Reports indicate that undercover cops have been used to catch both jaywalkers and drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. The obvious question is whether these officers could be used in more valuable ways. Using undercover cops to issue minor traffic citations seems unnecessary at best and wasteful at worst.

Given the spate of pedestrian deaths in New York City to begin the year, everyone seems to be in agreement that the main focus of any traffic safety program needs to be on reckless drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians with the right of way and distracted drivers who put everyone on city streets at risk. To this end, NYPD officers have also issued several summonses to drivers for failure to yield to pedestrians.

According to reports, the aggressive response to jaywalking was specifically prompted by three pedestrian deaths on the Upper West Side over a nine-day period. Police targeted jaywalkers in several areas, including the Upper West Side and Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, several summonses have been issued in the Upper West Side neighborhood where a nine-year-old boy was killed while walking in a crosswalk at a busy intersection last month.

If you’ve received a traffic ticket for reckless driving or failure to yield in New York City, contact the experienced traffic defense lawyers at the Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC by calling 866-642-3807 for a free consultation about your case.