Pols, NYPD seek to keep children safe

On January 25, the office of Councilmember David Greenfieldannounced a partnership with NYPD Deputy Inspector John Sprague ofthe 66th Precinct to crack down on motorists illegally passingparked school buses with their red lights flashing.

Studies show, the single greatest cause of death for childrenunder 12 is getting hit by a car, Greenfield said, adding, We’veasked the NYPD to devote more resources and they promised theywould.

Deputy Inspector John Sprague, commanding officer of the 66thPrecinct – covering the neighborhood of Boro Park — reports he hastaken decisive action on this issue.

I have directed my officers to crack down on motorists whodangerously and illegally pass school buses on local streets,Sprague said. Drivers must realize how dangerous this behavior isfor pedestrians, especially school children.

Yet officers within the NYPD contend that there hasn’t been achange in protocol or a bump in enforcement. They say both would beunnecessary steps.

It’s not something we have to be told to go do, said onesource, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. If we see it,we’re writing it up.

But according to NYPD moving summons data, officers in the 66thPrecinct don’t issue the ticket particularly often. In December,for instance, officers from the 66th Precinct didn’t issue a singleticket for motorists illegally passing a school bus.

Greenfield blames this on the nature of the offense.

It’s more difficult to catch someone driving past a bus thensomeone who runs a red light or is talking on a cell phone, hesaid, referencing two offenses for which thousands of citationswere given out in the 66th Precinct last year.

Doreen Daly is president of the District 20 Presidents Council.She says the narrow streets and proliferation of schools in BoroPark exacerbate the problem.

It’s always been an issue of concern in Boro Park, Daly said.It’s not so much the public schools, but more the privateschools.

While she supports Greenfield’s crusade, she feels the busdrivers also deserve some of the blame.

There’s an aggressiveness to the [school] buses and, I think, adanger in the places they stop to pick up the kids, Daly said.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles,When a stopped school bus flashes its red lights, trafficapproaching from either direction…must stop before reaching thebus.

The law requires motorists to stop at least 20 feet from theschool bus and remain stationary until the red lights stop flashingor the driver waves them forward. The minimum fine is $250 for thefirst violation with a maximum of $1,000 for three violations inthree years. Three violations in three years will also result in asix-month license suspension.

But Greenfield says the fine is a necessary evil in thiscase.

I have total sympathy for someone who forgets to put a quarterin the meter, he said. I have no sympathy for someone who speedsby a school bus to save 20 seconds.

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