Chinese in Queens Say Police Issued Unfair Speeding Tickets

(Photo by Peter Chu via World Journal)

(Photo by Peter Chu via World Journal)

Several Chinese said they were issued unfair speeding tickets in Flushing and Bayside recently when the police added 20 miles above their actual speed.

Facing more than $100 in fines and the accumulation of four points, these drivers have filed a joint complaint to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). Peter Koo, the council member representing Flushing, said it is a serious matter if the police really have altered the facts on the tickets, and he will ask the 109th police precinct in Flushing to do an investigation.

Liyuan Liu, a photography coach at an adult day care center, said it happened to him on Oct. 19 at 11 p.m. when he was driving northbound along 164th Street. While he arrived on Underhill Avenue in Kissena Park, a police car suddenly emerged from the roadside with its lights flashing. He immediately stopped.

A white policeman came to him and asked: “Sir, do you know how fast you were going?” Liu said: “Thirty miles per hour.” The officer said: “The speed limit here is 25 miles [per hour], you exceeded it by five miles.” He then took Liu’s driver’s license and insurance information back to the police car.

Knowing that police in New York rarely issue tickets to drivers speeding less than 10 miles above the limit, and that he had a speed recorder in his car, Liu thought it would be easy to explain in court and get the ticket dismissed. But when he received the ticket he was stunned. It said he was driving 43 mph.

“My car is a 2016 model with an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) GPS. It sounds an alarm when the speed is more than 30 miles per hour. It’s not possible that I was driving that fast,” said Liu.

He immediately turned on the voice recorder in his car and asked the officer why he didn’t put the actual 30 mph speed on the ticket. The officer claimed Liu’s GPS was broken, and so was the speed recorder. Then he went back to the police car and drove away.

Liu believed he was mistreated, so he took out a camera and took some pictures behind the police car. He then followed the police car for a while. As he expected, the white police officer soon issued a speeding ticket to another Chinese driver.

The driver, Mr. Chen, said he was stopped by the police at the intersection of Booth Memorial Avenue and 164th Street on Oct. 19 at 11:30 p.m. His ticket showed he was driving 55 mph. “That was not possible. I was [driving] at most 30 mph,” said Chen. “But I don’t speak English. There was nothing I could do.”

Liu recorded the encounter with the recorders on his car. When the police car left, he approached Chen and shared his suspicion that the officer targeted non-English-speaking Chinese, and that he inflated the speeds in order to justify the tickets and fulfill his ticket quota.

The two complained to the CCRB and Koo’s office. They then went to the DMV together with Hui Ling, another Chinese driver in a similar situation to appeal the tickets. Ling was issued a ticket at the intersection of Hollis Court Avenue and 196th Street on Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. when he was making a turn. “This was the first time I received a speeding ticket in the 20 years I’ve been in this country,” said Ling. “My English is not good enough and I didn’t know what the ticket said at first. Only after asking other people did I realize it said my speed was 48 mph. My car is more than 20 years. It’s too old to be able to go so fast.”

Koo said the police have to provide evidence from the radar speed gun or camera, otherwise drivers can ask the judge to dismiss the ticket. He said he’ll talk to the 109th police precinct and ask them to investigate whether the complaints are true.

[Editor’s note: In an accompanying story by reporters Mengzi Gao and Peter Chu, the World Journal also found the increasing number of tickets issued has contributed to the prosperity of a business that helps drivers get their tickets dismissed.]

Since this fall, the NYPD has been tightening traffic enforcement by paying more attention to turning and speeding violations from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Representatives from several agencies that help Chinese drivers to dismiss traffic tickets said that the number of tickets issued by the NYPD has been increasing rapidly in the past two years. It not only brings a lot of business to the existing agencies but also has triggered the establishment of many new agencies.

Mr. Xiong, an employee of the “Ye Ning Traffic Tickets Handling Center” said traffic tickets in New York and New Jersey have been increasing in recent years, and there were 4,000 tickets issued last year. Accordingly, more Chinese hire professionals like his center to handle the tickets. “I received about 40 phone calls every day asking us to help dismiss the ticket in court. Many of the clients were treated unfairly by the police,” he said.

In New York City, the revenue from traffic tickets was $1.9 billion in 2015, 5.5 percent more than in the previous year.  Zhiyue Zhang, who worked for months last year to have his own ticket dismissed, now has become an expert on such issues. In the process, he also realized the market of ticket handling was getting bigger. Recently, he opened his own ticket handling agency in Flushing, soliciting business from Chinese-run delivery car and commuter van services on WeChat. Zhang said most of the cases he took were related to speeding and improper turns. Some of his clients were facing fines of more than $1,000 and 12-point accumulations on their driving record.

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