Today, Transportation Alternatives announced the launch of an investigation into the NYPD’s traffic crash investigation practices. Joined outside One Police Plaza by the friends and families of dangerous driving victims and concerned New Yorkers, advocates delivered more than 2,650 letters to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, demanding the NYPD hold dangerous drivers accountable. The probe is being launched to shine a light on the Police Department’s failure to recognize traffic violence as a public safety crisis. From 2000 to 2009, more people were killed in traffic than murdered by guns in New York City. The NYPD must take these fatalities as seriously as other preventable deaths and devote the necessary resources to save lives.
This is a real issue on the streets of Greenpoint & Williamsburg. Our neighborhood has a large cluster of bicycle deaths, and has seen 4 cyclist killed in just the last few months. All the cases raise questions about how the police in our neighborhood investigate and deal with crashes. However, Mathieu Lefevre’s case is especially harrowing. In late October, Mathieu was run over on his bicycle and killed by a flatbed truck at the intersection of Meserole Street and Morgan Avenue in East Williamsburg. The driver of the truck left the scene of the crash, parked nearby and never returned. As with all fatal crashes, the NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad reported to the scene. Just a few days later, the investigation was closed. The NYPD then announced an all too common conclusion: the driver who killed Mathieu Lefevre would not be charged. Not with leaving the scene of the crash. Not with failure to exercise due care while driving. Not any charges at all.
Among those present at today’s rally was Erika Lefevre, the mother of slain Brooklyn resident, Matheiu Lefevre. Below is the powerful statement she read at the rally, which raises some serious questions for those of us who live and bike within the 90th precinct:
Thank all of you who have come to express your support.
I never expected to be standing in the same spot today where I stood over a month ago, asking the NYPD to please release the information it has about the death of Mathieu. In that month, we have made many requests to the NYPD for information, including Freedom of Information requests. But we’ve gotten almost nothing.
We have received an NYPD accident report. But the small amount of information in the report seems to contradict earlier statements by the police. The report raises more questions than it answers.
Back in October, the press quoted police sources as stating that Mathieu went though a red light. There is nothing in the report about this, and the NYPD detective investigating the case told me there is no evidence at all about the light.
Also in October, the press quoted police sources as stating that Mathieu was riding nest to the truck when it hit him, in the driver’s blind spot. But the report clearly shows that the truck was behind Mathieu and rear-ended him.
So here are my questions:
- Why did unnamed NYPD sources originally tell the press that Mathieu went through a red light, when there is no evidence of that?
- Why did the NYPD originally say Mathieu was riding next to the truck when it struck him, and then issue a report showing Mathieu was rear-ended?
- How can the truck driver have rear-ended Mathieu and not known he had done so?
- Why did the NYPD rush to accept the driver’s story that he didn’t know he killed someone, when the investigation is still ongoing?
- Why haven’t we been given access to the coroner’s report, the videotapes that NYPD says they have, and the other evidence of what actually happened? How much longer will this take? Six months? A year?
We appreciate that NYPD has a difficult job in trying to investigate this crash and determine what happened,” said Mrs. Lefevre. “We want NYPD to take the time it needs to conduct an unbiased, thorough, professional investigation. But NYPD has caused us great pain with their mishandling and withholding of information, and their rush to clear the driver of any wrongdoing
Today, I am asking NYPD to stop leaking misinformation to the press about crash victims. That only hurts the victims and their families, and makes the NYPD appear unprofessional and biased. NYPD must also stop stonewalling our Freedom of Information requests, and let us have the videotape and other evidence they have told us they have. Six weeks after Mathieu’s death, we have a right to know what happened. By getting accurate information out in a timely way, people will be able to make sense of these terrible crashes, and it will make the streets safer for everyone.
My son is dead; he cannot speak for himself. Nothing I can do will bring him back.But one thing I can do is to speak out about how this case has been handled by the NYPD, and about how changes would affect the lives of future victims, cyclists and pedestrians. Lives can be saved if the laws are enforced, thus making the streets safer for everyone.
Every life is precious.
Between 2001 and 2010, 1,745 pedestrians and bicyclists have been killed in New York City traffic and 142,485 have been injured. There is nothing “accidental” about the majority of these crashes; 60 percent of fatal pedestrian and bicyclist crashes with known causes are caused by driver’s dangerous and illegal behavior. Yet the NYPD refuses to enforce traffic laws that are already on the books.
“It’s the NYPD’s job to keep dangerous driving in check by holding reckless drivers accountable, but they are simply not taking that job seriously. Their cavalier attitude to the epidemic of lawless driving is absolutely unacceptable. We are going to hold the NYPD to task on behalf of the victims of dangerous drivers by launching a comprehensive investigation of the department’s practices,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.
Join the fight to hold lethal drivers accountable for their lawless actions. Click this link and learn how you can TAKE ACTION AND SUPPORT JUSTICE FOR MATHIEU LEFEVRE
The transportation action group at NAG plans to attend the next 90th Precinct Community Council to demand answers for Mathieu, his friends and family, and our community. Email for more info firstname.lastname@example.org or check our facebook page for event info. (Event will be posted once we have a date for next Community Council meeting)