2014-04-04 / Top Stories

101 Commanders ExplainVehicle Checkpoints

By Miriam Rosenberg

There has been a bit of grumbling since the 101st Precinct began vehicle checkpoints almost two months ago, including a front page article in The Wave concerning a high profile resident. Because of this, the precinct’s commanding and executive officers directly addressed the checkpoint issue in two separate meetings over the last few weeks.

“It’s done for safety reasons,” Deputy Inspector William Wynne, the commanding officer of the 101st Precinct, said at an informal meeting with residents at Councilman Donovan Richards’ office on March 25. He added, “A lot of people talk about homicides and shootings, but a lot of people are dying in car accidents and pedestrians are being struck by cars. The first three months of the year right now is the best in Queens South in terms of injury accidents and pedestrian accidents. I think the checkpoints had a lot to do with that.”

According to Wynne, the precinct’s checkpoints are a main way to help meet Mayor de Blasio’s new Zero Vision policy — zero deaths and injuries by car and pedestrian accidents.

But there has been one high profile stop that was covered by this newspaper in our March 14 issue.

During the precinct’s community council meeting on March 19 Executive Officer, Captain Paul Valerga explained the stop of Milan Taylor at one of the checkpoints. As reported, Taylor, the founder and president of the Rockaway Youth Task Force, was stopped and given a summons for having an air freshener hanging from his mirror.

It is illegal to have anything hanging from the mirror that obstructs the driver’s view, but Valerga told residents at the meeting that, “I will be the first person to tell you that is not what we are looking to do, and that’s not what these checkpoints are all about.”

The captain also told the residents that Taylor was summoned for not producing evidence of vehicle registration and insurance. Taylor has told The Wave that he had the documents with him and those two summonses have been dismissed. He also said he is filing a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. There was no further comment from the precinct.

Separately, Richards told residents at the meeting in his office that he was treated with respect when he was stopped at a checkpoint.

“I don’t think they knew who I was and I didn’t tell them,” Richards said.

That is what Wynne is pushing for.

“What I’m most concerned about is how people are treated when they are stopped,” Wynne said. “If I hear officers who stopped [people] were professional and courteous, that is what I want to hear.... That exchange is the most important thing to me because that’s what I preach. Because some of things we are going to do enforcement and strategy-wise may inconvenience some people, but I think if the officers are professional and courteous like they’re supposed to be, like Captain Valerga and I preach, then the inconvenience doesn’t seem like it. Then people realize we’re doing it for the right reasons.”

Both Wynne and Valerga point to statistics to show that the checkpoints are successful.

“Coincidentally our number of vehicle accidents has dropped to the best percentage in all of Queens and one of the best in New York City,” Valerga said. “We’re down almost 10 percent in the 28-day period.”

Wynne elaborated by saying, “We preach to write the speeders, the DWIs, the ones that have a positive impact on the accident and injury accidents. Vision zero says it all — we want zero. The closer we get to zero people speeding, zero people driving drunk, the closer we are to zero accidents and zero injuries — that’s really what our goal is.”

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