One Down, Thousands to Go: Cops Bust A Really Bad Driver For Doing Less-Dangerous Stupid Thing

Cops were looking for him, and found him.
Cops were looking for him, and found him.

Here are some donuts cops hate.

Police in Bay Ridge collared a reckless driver who was, in the words of the local Council member, “driving like an asshole” and doing donuts on Shore Road late on Wednesday and early on Thursday — but the very same car has been driving far more recklessly by speeding in school zones at least 12 times since June 21.

Council Member Justin Brannan had the discretion to cover over the driver’s plate when he reported the arrest via Twitter:

But police confirmed the plate — and identified the driver as Ibrahim Chaaban of Bay Ridge. The car in question — KVD6340 — has racked up 12 camera-issued speeding tickets since June 21, according to city data compiled by How’s My Driving.

Yet police, the sheriff and the DOT have been powerless to stop him until Chaaban allegedly made his Thursday morning donut run.

Police may have used some sort of surveillance device. Photo: NYPD
Police may have used some sort of surveillance device. Photo: NYPD

Chaaban was charged with reckless endangerment, reckless deriving and failure to obey a traffic device, cops said, “after he was observed operating a black 2008 Infinity driving recklessly and in circular motions in the vicinity of 89th Street and Fourth Avenue and disobey[ing] multiple pavement markings not having full control of the vehicle,” said an NYPD spokesperson who declined to provide a name.

The NYPD did not say if the Infiniti was seized by cops, but it no longer appears in the city Finance Department database for ticket payment, even though at least eight of its 24 violations remain unpaid, according to another database.

If the owner of the car were to attempt to pay the tickets through the NYC Serv site, he would now receive the following warning:

“The violation or plate number entered has been blocked from processing through this system. This blocking is intentional. You must appear in person at a Borough Payment and Adjudication Center,” which suggests that the car was seized by police, as Brannan’s tweet suggests as well.

But the moving violation tickets finally issued to the donut-doing driver of the particular Infiniti only underscores the difficulty that the city is having in getting reckless drivers of the normal kind — garden variety drivers who exceed the speed limit by 11 miles per hour or more and trip one of the city’s 2,000 school-zone speed cameras. Only after doing so for the 15th time in a single 12-month period are drivers required to take a short safety course — and those who do get their records wiped. If a driver fails to take the course, or gets another speeding ticket after taking the course, the car can eventually be seized.

Camera-issued tickets do not carry any points on a driver’s license, so the state DMV doesn’t end up suspending licenses, even though just three speeding tickets would trigger a suspension if they had been issued by a cop, not a camera. And the only other way to get a reckless driver off the road is if he or she fails to pay $350 of adjudicated tickets — that puts the driver “in judgment,” meaning the Sheriff can seize or boot the car … if it can be found (many drivers have off-street parking spaces).

There are currently more than 10,000 drivers, according to city data, who have met the 15-speeding-ticket-in-a-year threshold, but only 579 car owners had completed the safe-vehicle-operation course as of mid-October out of 1,080 getting notices. Seventeen more reckless drivers are scheduled to take the course by Nov. 19.

More respondents are in the pipeline, according to the Department of Transportation, but only six cars had been seized by the Sheriff under the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program through mid-September.

Brannan was pleased that the 68th Precinct had allegedly gotten one of these drivers off the road, but was miffed by how hard it is to get the others.

“It seems the various systems currently in place to deter this type of behavior have failed here,” he told Streetsblog. “How many times does a driver need to get fined or arrested for driving like an asshole before the system says enough is enough? Surely, the families in my district said enough is enough a long time ago.”

What worked in this instance was community pressure.

“We had tons of complaints about this guy,” Brannan said. “We told the cops about him. They went looking for him and sure enough caught him in the act.”

Not every neighborhood is so lucky.

But Chabaan’s fate — a slap on the wrist and a requirement to pay his tickets before getting his car back — is par for the course. As Queens DA Melinda Katz recently wrote in the Daily News, the penalties are not severe enough, “even in cases where the driver badly hurts or kills someone.”

“There is a strong need for tougher penalties for those who choose to use our city streets as raceways,” Katz told the News for its own coverage of drag racing last month.

This story on Friday, Oct. 21 was updated to include the most up-to-date numbers from the DOT.