NEW YORK — The NYPD admits they’re going on the offensive to get illegal scooters off the street.
The new strategy is leading to a spike in police pursuits, so we wanted to take a closer look.
CBS New York’s Ali Bauman went for a ride-along to investigate the new tactics police say are keeping our streets safer.
Bauman says at 11 p.m. in the Bronx, they were weaving through traffic in the back of a cop car looking for bikers.
You’ve seen the pattern — a shooting in the city with a suspect on a scooter.
“Is that the vehicle of choice for criminals right now?” Bauman asked.
“Right now, that’s the number one vehicle ’cause it’s evasive, you can get away quickly … and it’s tough for a police car to catch up to them,” NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said.
So last year, Chell created the NYPD’s Community Response Team, tasked with going after illegal vehicles. They started with 12 officers and now have nearly 200.
“The illegal bikes are off the street, the guns are off the street and you’ll see violence come down even further,” Chell said.
The NYPD says shootings are down 26.1% citywide compared to last year.
This team has confiscated nearly 8,000 illegal bikes, but they’ve also contributed to a spike in police pursuits.
“Our mayor has given us the mandate to start playing offense out here. We’re not playing defense. We’re playing offense,” Chell said.
So how do you catch a scooter when you’re in a car? Bauman went on patrol with the team to find out.
Their first stop — a woman hit by an unlicensed moped on the sidewalk of the Grand Concourse. After hitting her, the driver ditched his bike and ran so fast he forgot his shoes.
Minutes later, police found the suspect in his socks. He was arrested for reckless endangerment.
“I didn’t do anything,” he told officers.
The team took the unregistered bike.
The woman was taken to the hospital to be checked out.
Back in the car, a call on the radio came about a group of scooters riding recklessly.
Officers tried to circumvent them with the rest of the team and surround them in a sense so they couldn’t escape on the bikes.
The team tries not to follow directly behind, and they work with aviation to trail the bikes discreetly.
“Every officer has the ability to look at their phone to see exactly what the air support team is seeing and give us the ability to come up with a tact plan,” Det. Kaz Daughtry said.
After a 10-minute ride, the cops caught up with three of the bikes parked by a grocery store.
“So what they do is they steal the bike, then scratch the VIN numbers off. That way you can’t identify who the real owner is,” one officer said.
The drivers claimed they found the bikes like that. Cops confiscated them and issued summonses to the riders.
“How do you measure if this is working?” Bauman asked.
“Well, if at the end of tonight, no one gets hurt from the community, none of our cops get hurt, we don’t take a shooting, we take that as a win,” Chell said.
It’s not all wins.
The attorney general is currently investigating the deaths of six civilians, all killed during NYPD pursuits in the past year.
“Are any of these cops being reckless in their pursuits?” Bauman asked.
“Look, every pursuit, whether it be a pursuit from lagging behind or up close, is inherently dangerous, and we try to mitigate that the best we can, and I’ll tell you, if we make a mistake, we take that very seriously,” Chell said.
It’s NYPD policy to terminate a vehicle pursuit whenever the risk to officers and the public outweigh the danger to the community if the suspect is not immediately caught.
Back on the road, the last call was for another roving group of reckless scooters. Once again, the team used aviation intel to shadow from a distance.
After darting through the Bronx for 20 minutes, officers eventually followed two of the scooters home.
“Independent from any contact with us, aviation observed them on video driving on the sidewalks, driving through red lights, putting people at risk and in danger,” Glynn said.
Police put the two drivers in handcuffs and brought out their scooters. The VIN numbers were filed off — a felony — and the engine had been hot wired.
“Where were they stolen? Where did they find them? Why were they driving the way they were driving?” Glynn said.
The suspects headed to the precinct for processing, the scooters were confiscated to be crushed, and the community response team finished up another night.