New York, NY—Drag racing has become a pervasive phenomenon during the coronavirus pandemic as Manhattan’s streets are free of heavy traffic. The NYPD’ Highway District has been dedicating more resources to slow down the drag racers.
NYPD Highway made history last year when it assigned its first woman to lead the Highway District—Inspector Nicole Papamichael.
She used to be the former Commanding Officer of the 17th Precinct.
Papamichael joined this week with the 17th Precinct Community Council’s President, Matt Roberts, and the 17th Precinct’s current CO, Captain Edwards, to talk about Highway’s response to the drag racing problem, as well as Highway’s other functions.
Papamichael said that drag racing has become a major complaint at Highway, but especially in the confines of Manhattan South, where drivers from New Jersey, Queens and other locales drive to Times Square for “car meets” on the weekend.
“We monitor social media, and we know that they are going to Times Square, and we shut it down,” said Papamichael.
“Then they look for other venues to go to within Manhattan—major streets like 3rd Avenue and 1st Avenue where it’s open, and they can speed.”
She added that just in the past three weeks, Highway District Officers have written on average 20 to 40 summonses to deter the car meets, and have confiscated at least five cars.
But Papamichael stressed that the car meets are events that Highway knows about in advance. It’s more challenging to stop the incidents when they happen impromptu along the avenues.
“A lot of times, because the traffic is so light, especially in Manhattan, and because of Covid, people just tend to speed—these are things that we don’t know in advance and can’t really predict and prevent,” Papmichael said.
But, she, noted Highway will monitor 311 and 911 complaints and direct resources as needed.
While 99 percent of the District’s resources are targeted for highway enforcement, nonetheless, if there are a lot of complaints originating within the 17th Precinct's district, Highway will conduct joint operations with the precinct to clamp down on speeding.
Highway performs a lot of other tasks, such as responding to all major crash investigations to determine the cause of the crash and whether there is criminality involved if someone is seriously injured or deceased.
“It entails a lot of work, between diagramming and photographing and just pretty much putting the case together,” said Papamichael.
The NYPD’s Highway District is responsible for patrolling 460 miles of highway, from the Bronx to Staten Island, performing speed operations and assisting motorists whose cars have broken-down.
In addition, Highway leads escorts for members of the service, dignitaries, as well as leading the procession for the President of the United States during the week of UNGA—the annual session of the General Assembly of the United Nations when the world’s leaders gather in New York.
“We do a lot, a lot that people don’t know. We don’t just write speed summonses, although that is our bread and butter,” Papamichael said.