With traffic fatalities, front and center on a lot of minds, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams held a faith leader meet-and-greet with New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Dermot Shea at Brooklyn Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn.
The meeting came as just last week when motorists hit and killed two young children in East New York. Both we killed at the times when children are en route to school.
In the first incident, Patience Heaven Albert, 10, and her brother Marzae Albert, 15, were crossing at Wortman Avenue and Crescent Street at about 6:45 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25, when she was hit by a yellow bus killing her and injuring her brother.
Then at about 8:15 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 27, Payson Lott, 7, and his mother were hit by an SUV at the intersection of Blake Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, killing Payson and injuring his mother. Thursday’s incident marked the sixth pedestrian death in the city in a week, and the 22nd this year.
“When the crossing guards aren’t there, it’s a crisis but when they are, it’s just as bad,” said Rev. Monica Sinclair, head pastor and teacher at The People’s Cathedral in Brooklyn, 1492 St Johns Place in Crown Heights.
Sinclair directed her concerns to a room filled with NYPD top brass and faith leaders from throughout the borough Shea sat and addressed ongoing challenges to public safety, with traffic-related incidents at the center of the discussion.
“Nothing is off the table in terms of if it’s using school crossing guards, police officers, or whether it’s partnering with the Department of Education (DOE) or the DOT [Departmnet of Transportation], or even using auxiliary officers to come because we have a situation where two children lost their lives,” said Shea.
The meeting came as 2019 was a deadly year in Brooklyn and across the city for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers on the road. Traffic deaths rose to 219 last year, roughly a 9% increase in fatalities overall and a staggering 200% increase in cyclist fatalities. This year there have been more than 20 traffic-related fatalities already, 10 of which involved pedestrians- including the two children on their way to school.
NYPD Chief of Patrol Fausto Pichardo explained that was need is a “three-pronged approach”, wherein each individual takes on the responsibility to continually educate the public on speed safety while looking out for traffic safety issues in their communities to alert their neighborhood coordination officers, and finally to utilize police enforcement.
Pichardo noted that the specific streets where the two children were struck was out of the district school crossing guards cover, but said there is also a shortage of school crossing guards with about 200 vacancies in the Brooklyn area.
Brian Conroy, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, said his command has the highest collision rate with injuries recorded of any patrol borough in the City with about 7,000 injuries in 2019.
“There’s not just one thing that’s causing this,” said Conroy, “probably the biggest thing we should be looking at is speed and how fast people are going and not paying attention.”
In hosting the meeting, Adams said dating back to his time serving as a police officer in the NYPD, law enforcement has enjoyed a strong bond with the faith community.
“We are united in our commitment to making our communities safer and better for all residents, and we must ensure this fruitful partnership continues under the able leadership of Commissioner Shea. We sincerely appreciate his dedication to maintaining our hard-won gains in public safety, and in particular to ensure we tackle the rising scourge of hate crime here in Brooklyn and throughout the city,” said Adams.
Besides traffic-related incidents, the meet-and-greet focused on community policing, hate crimes, the new state bail laws and stop-and-frisk.
According to the latest NYPD statistics, major felony crime is up over 18 percent for the year compared to last year at this time and shooting incidents are up nearly 20 percent.