FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 16, 2020
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Announces
Creation of Dedicated Street Safety Bureau
Adds Resources to Support Investigations of Traffic Fatalities from Their Outset; Will Provide Assistance to Victims and Liaise with Advocates and Lawmakers to Improve Road Safety
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced the creation of a Street Safety Bureau to assist in police investigations of traffic violence cases, with emphasis on protecting bicyclists and pedestrians, respond to scenes of serious collisions in real time and coordinate support services for victims and their families. Bureau members will also work directly with legislators to assist in drafting and revising bills to combat vehicular violence, attend Safety Board meetings and host regular meetings with traffic safety advocates, among other duties.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “We must do all we possibly can to battle traffic violence in Brooklyn to decrease the number of cyclists and pedestrians who are killed and maimed by drivers. With my new Street Safety Bureau, we aim to achieve that in a number of ways: adding resources to assist in collision investigations early on, partnering with advocates on safety initiatives and working with legislators to improve vehicular laws. We need to invest resources and shift our focus regarding these cases – they are often not accidents but preventable tragedies, caused by dangerous, reckless and unlawful driving. Now more than ever, as vehicular traffic in the city is expected to increase in light of the pandemic, protecting all who use our streets is paramount.”
“Traffic violence is an epidemic which impacts thousands of New Yorkers every year, so we are pleased to see that Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s new Bureau will refocus efforts to not only prevent reckless driving, but to also provide a new model of support for crash victims and their loved ones,” said Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
“Families for Safe Streets is grateful to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for launching a new Street Safety Bureau, a proactive, preventative and trauma-informed approach to addressing the epidemic of traffic violence. As victims of traffic violence, we are particularly thankful for the support crash victims will receive, as well as the new efforts to prevent others from suffering as we have,” said Amy Cohen, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets and mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein (12/8/00-10/8/13).
“Dangerous drivers with long records of recklessness and speeding often face little accountability for their harmful behavior. I am encouraged that the new Street Safety Bureau will center victims of dangerous driving and partner with street safety advocates and criminal justice reformers to develop new metrics and strategies for preventing traffic violence. By gathering information at crash sites and making data available about the most harmful driving patterns, this Bureau has the potential to break new ground in street safety and driver accountability. I look forward to joining our advocacy community in partnering with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians,” said Council Member Brad Lander.
The District Attorney said that, much like in homicide cases, his prosecutors now get involved in the investigation of collisions with fatalities of cyclists or pedestrians at an earlier stage. Once the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is activated, the Street Safety Bureau immediately dispatches a prosecutor to the scene at any time, day or night. The attorney assists police in identifying evidence, speaks to witnesses while their memories are fresh, documents relevant information, drafts warrants to facilitate the gathering of evidence and makes initial contact with victims and their families. This real-time presence helps prosecutors determine early on whether criminality is suspected and ensures that all the evidence at the scene is preserved and reviewed.
When appropriate, the Bureau sends a social worker from the District Attorney’s Victim Services Bureau to the hospital. Support remains available to victims whether the incident proceeds as a criminal matter or not, like services currently provided to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
In addition, the Bureau is taking steps to accumulate reliable statistics regarding crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists in Brooklyn to coordinate proactive enforcement and community outreach in areas prone to vehicular violence. Members of the Bureau will also meet on a regular basis with advocates and other stakeholders to answer questions and discuss strategies to improve safety by promoting better laws, identifying collision hot spots and pursuing other ideas and initiatives.
From the start of 2020 through June, cyclist fatalities in Brooklyn are down 80% compared to the same period last year and pedestrian fatalities are down 11.8%. Cyclist injuries are down 15.6% and pedestrian injuries are down 38.2%. The decrease of people on the road due to the pandemic likely skewed these numbers downward.
Assistant District Attorney Ronald Snyder, an avid bicyclist for the past 15 years, was recently appointed Deputy Bureau Chief and, in addition to his day to day duties, will serve as a liaison with the cyclist community and other partners. Assistant District Attorney Craig Esswein is the Chief of the Street Safety Bureau.