Municipal Government

More Protection for Traffic Enforcers

By Bendix Anderson
October 4, 2010
 
The fractured skull of traffic enforcement officer Edgar Saeteros a member of the NYPD Parking Control Unit, is a brutal reminder how dangerous it is to give out parking tickets in New York City.
 
The job has become much safer in recent years — but there is still much left to do before assaults like the September 29 attack on Saeteros become a thing of the past.
 
“We have a long way to go,” said James Huntley, president of CWA Local 1182, a union which includes many New York City uniformed traffic enforcement agents, though not Saeteros, whose unit is represented by the Teamsters Local 237 and was unavailable for comment.
Edgar Saeteros had just written a $115 summons for an illegally parked Lincoln Town Car in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx when Derrick Jordan, the driver of the car, cursed at Saeteros according to local news reports. In the ensuing scuffle, Jordan allegedly punched Saeteros twice in the back of the head.
 
Hitting the pavement fractured his skull, and Saeteros is now in serious but stable condition at Jacobi Medical Center. Jordan fled the scene, leaving his car behind, but has since turned himself in and been charged with second-degree assault.
 
The number of attacks on traffic enforcement officers has dropped sharply. There were thousands of attacks annually throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Most of the 1,900 traffic enforcement agents in the city were beaten several times in any given year, according to Huntley. In recent years there have been only roughly 60 attacks annually. This year, the number of attacks has plunged again — the number is on track to hit about 30.
 
Several changes led to fewer assaults. In 1996, the traffic enforcement officers joined the police department. The blue police uniform is a better deterrent to attack than the brown uniform of the Department of Transportation, Huntley said.
 
Also, a New York law passed in 2008 made it a felony to assault a traffic enforcement officer. Before the law passed, it was a felony to assault a police horse, and only a misdemeanor to assault a traffic enforcement agent.
 
“We put ads in newspapers and billboards on the streets and a 15-second commercial in the movie theaters to publicize the law,” said Huntley. Union officials also visited district attorneys in all five boroughs to talk about the law and make sure cases were prosecuted.
 
But more can be done to prevent attacks. Traffic officers do not currently carry weapons, which makes them more vulnerable. “I would hope that the department would give us some pepper spray or nightstick training,” Huntley said. Unmarked police cars in New York City neighborhoods could also support traffic enforcement agents on the job.
 
Huntley also would like it to become a felony to abuse traffic enforcement officers in other ways. “I’m tired of our members getting spit upon,” says Huntley.

October 1, 2010

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