Since the city’s 2,200 speed cameras shifted to 24/7 operations in August, about 15% of tickets issued were in the Bronx through Dec. 20.
The cameras, which can only be placed within a quarter-mile radius of a school, previously functioned from 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday through Friday. They shifted to 24/7 operations on Aug. 1, 2022 with overwhelming support from city and state lawmakers, though some Republicans criticized the safe-streets measure as a cash cow.
There were 2,877,421 speed camera violations issued from Aug. 1-Dec. 20, 2022, according to the city Comptroller’s Office. Of those tickets, 435,645, or 15.14%, were issued in the Bronx. The most were issued in Queens at 1,079,642 tickets, while 949,004 were issued in Brooklyn, 227,069 in Manhattan and 18,606 in Staten Island.
According to the Comptroller’s office, the city collected more than $99.6 million from violations during that August-December timeframe, with approximately $66.5 million more in tickets that have yet to be paid. These figures account for late penalties, court determined reductions and interest.
Violations have been decreasing each month since the expansion took place. According to Mayor Eric Adams, cameras flagged about 755,000 speed violations in August, which dropped to 565,000 in November, a 25.2% decrease.
Adams also said that pedestrian deaths were down 7.5% in 2022, the third lowest number in the city’s recorded history, after a rise in traffic fatalities that started in 2019.
An analysis of ticket data from August-October by Streetsblog showed that while daytime weekday speeding was down 15% compared to the same time period in 2021, the total number of tickets were up 67% compared to the same time period in previous years.
The NYC Department of Transportation declined to provide monthly violation data for 2022, only pointing to reports with data from earlier years. The agency also would not say how many speed cameras are currently in the Bronx or which locations garner the most violations.
DOT data from previous years — before the camera expansion — supports that roughly half of drivers slow down in school zones after being flagged by the camera.
The agency reported that from the program’s inception in 2014 through 2021, 46% of plates receiving a ticket did not receive a second one, and an additional 19% received no more than two. In 2021, 55% of vehicles that received a camera ticket got just one, even though the number of cameras throughout the city increased.
During that time frame, just 0.15% of violations were overturned, with only 2.4% of drivers requesting hearings.
The cameras only flag drivers who are more than 10 mph over the speed limit, and carry a $50 fine regardless of how many offenses the plate has rung up, or the rate of speed above 10 mph in excess of the speed limit.
Summons issued by a police officer for speeding in a school zone could range on the first offense from $90-$600, plus an $88 state surcharge, according to DOT.
DOT’s most recent report on the city’s speed cameras, which only includes data from before the cameras went 24/7, says that as of December 2021, speeding has dropped at camera locations by an average of 73%.
The Grand Concourse saw a 90% drop in speed camera violations between the first month the camera was installed and December 2021 from 604 to 60 violations, and Boston Road saw a 78% drop, with 431 camera violations in the first month and 96 in December 2021, according to the report. The Bronx Times asked DOT when these cameras were installed and is awaiting a response.
The traffic surveillance camera locations are no secret. On top of neighbors sharing camera locations in Facebook groups and on the Waze navigation app, the city posts signs warning of the cameras in every location.
But the cameras don’t catch everyone, with speed demons who drive with illegally obstructed plates averting the technology.
In April, MTA chief Janno Lieber estimated that the agency would lose $50 million in 2022 due to drivers with obscured plates dodging tolls on city bridges and tunnels. A report by The CITY found that the city has lost about $75 million in potential fines for red light and speed camera violations because of the obstructed plates.
Safe streets advocates have tried to draw attention to these plates, which drivers intentionally obscure with plastic plate covers or by bending the sides of the plate, scratching off the lettering or placing foreign objects over part of the plate number. In the fall, lawyer Adam White said he removed a piece of plastic that was obstructing a license plate, but found himself charged with criminal mischief.
Streetsblog Editor Gersh Kuntzman created a video series on his Twitter after White’s incident, where he documents himself conducting his own “criminal mischief.” He removes objects from obscured plates and carries a paint pen to draw on letters and numbers that have been scratched off.
Last night, @BKBPReynoso wondered if @NYCMayor and @nypdpc Sewell are ashamed yet that a 57-year-old guy with a paint pen (and an apparent lack of concern for personal safety) is showing them up by going around un-defacing cops' license plates. Well, not yet, apparently! pic.twitter.com/eeRyXydXAf
— Gersh Kuntzman (@GershKuntzman) January 18, 2023
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes