VIDEO of Time’s Up! Criminality Suspected Ride with a clip of spray painting stencils
On Friday, March 15, 2013, Time’s Up! cyclists toured a series of eight newly-painted street memorials of pedestrians and cyclists who were killed by automobiles in the past year —- each one a case that cried out for serious scrutiny (four of the pedestrians were run over on sidewalks) — yet where the NYPD declined to investigate the collision, declaring “no criminality suspected” within hours of the crash.
This was an emotionally trying ride, but one filled with solidarity and purpose. At each memorial, ride leaders retold the details of the fatal crash and the NYPD response. The memorials themselves, which had been anonymously spray-painted on streets and sidewalks the night before, took the form of “chalk outlines” of the dead bodies. Beside each appeared the victim’s name and death date stenciled, as well as a three line mantra: “Killed by Auto / No Criminality Suspected / Why, Ray, Why?”
The question is directed at Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Kelly, at the beginning of March, had said that the department’s perennially underfunded Accident Investigation Squad would replace the word “accident” with ‘collision,’ increase its staff by 10, and begin investigating collisions resulting in “critical injury” on top of the traffic deaths which had previously defined their jurisdiction. His statement was in response to a City Council hearing one year earlier that had harshly criticized the NYPD’s traffic investigation protocols.
However, less than two weeks after Kelly’s pronouncement, when Queens native Tenzin Drudik, 16, was killed by a van that sped onto a sidewalk, the NYPD released the driver with no criminal charges after deeming the crash “an accident.” The driver had spilled milk on his lap. In the six days that followed, seven pedestrians and cyclists were killed by automobile in NYC, without a single driver being charged with a crime.
Attorney and traffic-law expert Steve Vaccaro urges a policy change. “In clearly delineated situations, acts of traffic violence should be presumptively criminal – no matter how prevalent instances of such violence may be at present – with an opportunity for the driver to rebut the presumption.”
Organizer Keegan Stephan, a ride leader on March 15, adds that “by declaring ‘no criminality suspected’ within hours of deadly crashes and yet refusing to release their investigations, the NYPD is whitewashing traffic violence to the public, withholding potentially emotionally-healing information from grieving families, and robbing safer-streets activists of the information they need to best advocate for a livable city.”
As the procession of Time’s Up riders moved from memorial to memorial around the city, the question lingered unanswered over each site visit: “Why, Ray, Why?”