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More NYPD Vehicle Pursuits in Last Six Months Than Prior Five Years Combined

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell, appointed to the role under Mayor Adams, has been unapologetic about the aggressive new tactic.

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NYPD officers patrol the South Bronx, July 5, 2023.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The NYPD has kept the pedal to the metal on vehicle pursuits — with 625 recorded from January to June of this year, according to the latest NYPD 911 data analyzed by THE CITY.

That’s more chases in a six-month span than occurred in the five previous years combined. The number puts 2023 on pace to end up with three times as many chases as the NYPD engaged in over the four years before Eric Adams became mayor. 

The surge comes without any change to the NYPD patrol guide procedure that dictates the limited circumstances where vehicle pursuits are allowed, given New York’s dense urban environment.

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell has been unapologetic since THE CITY first reported the expansion of the aggressive tactic that coincided with his appointment in December as the third highest-ranking person in the police department, after the commissioner and chief of department. as chief in December.

Chell has said the risky tactic is a necessary response to the proliferation of all-terrain vehicles, illegal scooters and “ghost cars” with illicit license plates that are contributing both to dangerous streets and gun violence.

“With the enforcement of more moving summonses and car stops, and people thinking they can take off on us? Those days are over,” he said during a press conference at police headquarters in lower Manhattan when asked earlier this month about the car-chase surge of the first half of this year.

“So yes, vehicle pursuits are up,” he added. “And I’ll say it again: The days of driving around this city lawless, doing what you’re thinking you’re going to do, it’s over.”

Practice Vs. Policy

Chell later revealed to NY1 that the police department has captains in each police patrol borough monitoring a citywide radio channel dedicated to vehicle pursuits.

An NYPD official familiar with the channel said the emphasis on pursuits, with the encouragement of top police brass, creates a hopped-up environment that can become a “free for all.”

“Everybody hears that,” the official said. “When you hear a pursuit like that, you hear a plate nearby … everyone starts pursuing,” he added. “And that’s a big practical change from our actual pursuit policy.” 

Retired NYPD Lieutenant John D. Macari, who co-hosts a podcast called “New York’s Finest: Retired & Unfiltered,” is a proponent of proactive policing, but believes the progressive bent of the city’s politicians often makes it too risky to engage in.

Macari said on a recent episode that Chell’s heart seems to be in the right place when it comes to pursuits, but that he was putting the lives and careers of the young cops carrying out his orders at risk. 

“I think anything short of a terrorist attack, a child abduction, a murderer who has the potential to murder others that same day — I would not be involved in vehicle pursuits,” he said. 

“From a public safety standpoint, I don’t want the cops racing down my block to go get somebody that has a suspended registration, or even possibly an illegal firearm in the car that he didn’t use,” he added. “I don’t want to risk my family getting killed by either that guy fleeing or the cops.”

Under Investigation

As THE CITY has reported, at least six civilian deaths related to vehicle pursuits that occurred since August 2022 are under investigation or being preliminarily assessed by the office of Attorney General Letitia James.

Those include a 74-year-old pedestrian who was struck and killed on June 29 in The Bronx, allegedly by 46-year-old Reynaldo Nazario.

Nazario, who previously served time in prison for a number of car thefts, acknowledged he was driving a stolen Honda CRV when cops tried to pull him over, according to police.

“I was going fast. I got nervous when they stopped me. I’ve stolen cars before,” Nazario allegedly told cops, according to a criminal complaint filed in The Bronx. 

“I was fleeing from police. I got into an accident,” the complaint says Nazario added. “I didn’t know I hit someone until I got out of the car and saw them.”

An attorney for Nazario couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

At least three people have been critically injured — two of them suspects, and one a 62-year-old pedestrian — during the course of presumed police pursuits over the past year.

The NYPD has refused to provide the names of the two suspects who were critically injured. One of them crashed an allegedly stolen Volkswagen SUV into the side of a tractor trailer in The Bronx in April, and the other dropped from an 80-foot overpass on I-80 near Bogota, New Jersey after the NYPD chased him there from The Bronx. 

The department hasn’t responded to multiple inquiries about whether the NYPD tracks injuries and deaths related to police pursuits.

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