NYPD Ignores Council Request for Info on Allegedly Fraudulent 311 Responses

The NYPD has defied a City Council request for records related to the police department’s alleged mishandling of 311 complaints about illegal parking, a Council spokesman told Streetsblog.

Council leaders had asked the NYPD to provide materials related to 14 service requests to 311 about illegal parking that police officers had marked as resolved despite never responding to the scenes of the infractions, according to council investigators.

The standoff stems from an Oct. 12 letter to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea from Speaker Corey Johnson, Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez and Oversight and Investigations Committee Chairwoman Vanessa Gibson asking the department to provide the requested records by Wednesday, Oct. 20. But the police didn’t provide the materials, said Council spokesman Kevin Groh, nor did the agency respond to the council letter at all.

How Streetsblog covered the story last week.
How Streetsblog covered the story last week.

The NYPD’s failure to respond comes as the Transportation and Oversight committees will hold a joint hearing on Tuesday to discuss 311 as part of a broader examination Vision Zero, Mayor de Blasio’s program aimed at eliminating traffic deaths. (The NYPD and City Hall did not respond to requests for comment from Streetsblog.)

The deadline for the NYPD to respond was one day before Streetsblog published an investigation into the agency’s handling of 311 complaints about driver misconduct. In its analysis of more than 26 million 311 complaints dating back to 2010, Streetsblog found that police routinely ignore notifications about illegal parking, chronically reckless driving and abandoned vehicles, which is fostering a culture of lawlessness on city streets that residents say is getting worse as traffic deaths climb to their highest point in years. The NYPD did not respond to Streetsblog’s story either.

The Council’s Oversight and Investigations Division conducted its own inquiry into the NYPD’s handling of illegal parking complaints over the summer. Investigators filed 50 service requests to 311 about illegal parking and placard abuse, and found police did not properly respond to 36 of them. In 14 of those cases, officers did not respond to the scenes at all, despite saying they did.

The records the NYPD did not provide related to those 14 complaints. The Council is seeking the names of the officers assigned to the service requests, their activity logs, the GPS location history of their vehicles and other records.

“Enforcement of illegal parking rules isn’t merely an important tool in making sure drivers are following the rules of the road, it is also a serious safety priority,” the council leaders wrote to Shea. “With traffic fatalities at their highest point in nearly a decade, illegal parking violations must be taken seriously.”

Streetsblog’s investigation further revealed:

  • The NYPD now closes thousands of service requests about driver misconduct each year in under five minutes, up from only five such complaints closed so quickly in 2010. Former city officials said it was implausible that officers were actually investigating and resolving so many complaints in under five minutes, given it takes the NYPD more than seven minutes on average to respond to even the most critical emergencies.
  • Officers rarely write tickets in response to 311 reports on driver misconduct, and they routinely dismiss driver misconduct reports as outside the police department’s jurisdiction. Former city officials said such offenses are clearly a police responsibility.
  • Residents who collectively have filed more than 1,000 driver misconduct service requests say those efforts have almost never led to the problems being addressed.
  • Some reported receiving harassing messages after filing complaints.
  • One Brooklyn precinct — the 78th in Park Slope — appears especially dismissive of 311 complaints about driver misconduct, with 16 percent of them this year closed in under five minutes.

The withheld 311 records are not the only way in which the NYPD is defying the Council on parking enforcement matters. In their letter, Council leaders also wrote that the police still have not complied with Local Law 6. That statute, passed last year, mandated the NYPD investigate illegal parking and parking placard abuse hot spots each week and report back to the Department of Investigation, the mayor and the Council on what they found.

“We have received no reports from you, and our understanding is that, to date, NYPD has not performed any of the evaluations required by this law,” the letter reads.