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NYPD Fails to Fully Investigate Some Traffic Deaths: Suit

Monday, June 11, 2012

The NYPD fails to thoroughly investigate when pedestrians and cyclists are struck by cars, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn Monday.

As previously reported by Transportation Nation, the NYPD has 19 detectives assigned to crash investigations, and it's Accident Investigation Squad only responds when a crash victim is killed on the scene or officially declared "likely to die" by a medical professional.

Often paramedics or emergency room doctors do not realize their designation will mean the difference between a full criminal investigation and a police write up.

Clara Heyworth, 28, was struck last July while crossing a Fort Greene, Brooklyn, street. Because she was not declared “likely to die,” the AIS detective did not conduct a criminal investigation the first day. Only after Heyworth died the following day, did AIS initiate a full investigation.

"Unless they get that statement from the doctor, NYPD walks away and the evidence is not preserved, it's lost, the video tape, the tire tracks on the ground, witness statements, all of that is lost and that's what happened here," said Steve Vaccaro, who is representing Heyworth's husband Jacob Stevens.

The driver also may have been drunk. He blew a .07 on a breathalyzer but the device had not been calibrated recently, so the finding was ruled inadmissible and because the AIS investigation was called off, that was the only evidence gathered about his drinking that night.

The lawsuit argues state law requires police to fully investigate all serious injury crashes, not just near fatalities.

NYPD did not return a request for comment, but has said in the past it is a question of priorities.

Few Fatal Vehicle-Bike Crashes Lead to Arrest, Data Show

Stevens v NYPD Clara Heyworth Case_June 2012

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