NYPD pursuits up more than 644%, costing city taxpayers millions in crash claims

Kristin Thorne Image
Monday, May 20, 2024
NYPD pursuits up more than 644% costing city taxpayers millions
The 7 On Your Side Investigates Team has made an interesting discovery about police pursuits.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The 7 On Your Side Investigates Team has found that pursuits by the NYPD are up more than 644% from fiscal year 2022 to 2023, costing city taxpayers an additional $14 million in crash claims, according to the New York City Comptroller.

Eyewitness News looked at the NYPD's reporting numbers and found the Department conducted 214 pursuits in 2022 and 1,593 in 2023. Pursuits have continued to be high in 2024 with the NYPD conducting 293 more chases in the first three months of 2024 compared to the same time period in 2023. Queens saw the highest increase in chases going from 49 to 174 - a 255% increase. In Brooklyn, pursuits increased by 171% from 60 to 163. Manhattan is the only borough that saw a decline in pursuits.

Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne got curious about the numbers after doing a story on the Rizer family from Brooklyn. Their parked Jeep SUV was totaled last November during a high-speed pursuit in Bushwick. Video shows an unmarked police car smashing into their Jeep. The city, however, is refusing to pay for the damage saying the incident involves complex circumstances.

Eyewitness News asked the NYPD what is causing the incredible increase in pursuits. Spokesperson Tarik Sheppard said the NYPD instituted a new method of logging pursuits in 2023 - one that is more accurate.

"We have better reporting now," he said.

Sheppard said Chief of Patrol John Chell has also made it clear to his officers that they should be going after people who are committing crimes and quality of life violations.

Chell was appointed in December 2022, just before the spike in pursuits.

When Chell was asked in an NYPD press conference last July about the increase in pursuits, he was not shy with his answer.

"People thinking they can take off on us, those days are over," he said.

According to the New York City Comptroller's Office - the agency that oversees the city's financial settlements - the NYPD received 176 more crash claims filed against the department in the fiscal year 2023 compared to 2022, which cost taxpayers an additional $14 million.

The Comptroller said the NYPD - out of all the city agencies - has historically had the highest number of motor vehicle crash claims. To be fair, however, the Comptroller said motor vehicle settlements across all city agencies - FDNY, Sanitation and Parks included - are up 23% https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/wreckless-spending/ from last fiscal year and cost taxpayers more than $173 million last year.

Lander said motor vehicle crash claims against the city haven't been this high since 2000.

Eyewitness News found the cost to settle those damage claims, however, does not come out of the department budgets, rather the money comes from the general taxpayer fund.

Comptroller Brad Lander told the New York City Council in March that the claim payments should be put on the books of the individual agencies in order to reduce the number of claims.

"The agencies that are responsible for the harms that are being settled bear no responsibility on their budgets for those payments, so they don't have any incentive to reduce them," Lander said.

"You put the claim responsibility on the books of the agencies, then you'll get commissioners involved saying, 'How can we have fewer crashes?'" he said.

Eyewitness News proposed that idea to Sheppard who said that he would leave the numbers and politics up to the city council.

"We have to keep people safe," he said.

Eyewitness News asked for an interview with the NYPD PBA to discuss the increase in pursuits.

PBA head Patrick Hendry said in a statement to us that police officers know that vehicle pursuits come with risks to their own safety and careers if something goes wrong.

He said NYPD supervisors should be adhering to a standard when directing pursuits that do not needlessly put cops or the public at risk.

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