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NYPD vehicle pursuits up 97% compared to last year

Police chases on the rise in NYC, data shows
Police chases on the rise in NYC, data shows 02:19

NEW YORK -- After a cyclist was struck by a driver who allegedly fled a traffic stop in Queens, some people are questioning the officers' decision to chase the driver through a busy, residential area.

CBS New York Investigates found that from January through March of this year -- the most recent data available -- there were 598 NYPD vehicle pursuits. That's a 97% increase over the first three months of 2023, which itself was a major increase over the same period in 2022.

CBS New York first reported on the spike last year, when NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell explained how police are going after illegal scooters.

"Our mayor has given us the mandate to start playing offense out here. We're not playing defense. We're playing offense," Chell said in July 2023.

Cyclist struck by driver fleeing police in Queens

New video recorded by a witness and sent to CBS New York Investigates shows police chase after a Nissan Altima on 31st Avenue near 34th Street on Wednesday. The driver of the Nissan later crashed into a 39-year-old cyclist just outside Giulia Marotta's salon at 31st Avenue and Crescent Street.

"I really honestly think that chasing after, in a residential area, I think it's not really safe for the pedestrians and people that are walking. Kids, there are a lot of kids here, living here. I think it's very, it's not really a safe thing to do," Marotta said.

Police say the driver, 46-year-old Harold Vega, took off again after hitting the cyclist, but officers caught him near 23rd Street and 24th Drive.

"The spinning, the tires burned, you could smell from two blocks away," one witness said.

Vega is facing a slew of charges, including:  reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of an accident with serious injury, fleeing officers in a motor vehicle, resisting arrest, obstruction governmental administration, reckless driving, aggravated unlicensed operator of a motor vehicle, operating motor vehicle without insurance, dirty or covered plate, and motor vehicle license violation no license.

The cyclist was taken to a local hospital, where he remains in critical condition.  

"He was really in bad shape ... I didn't sleep until 4 in the morning thinking about what happened," Marotta said.  

The NYPD did not say why they tried to stop Vega in the first place.

CBS New York has asked the NYPD if those officers followed proper protocol but has not yet gotten an answer.

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