New LAPD Program Seeks to Dethrone City as King of Hit-and-Runs

A new alert system will pit the efforts of the police, the private sector, the city and the public against one of Los Angeles' bloody problems.

by / February 11, 2015

Los Angeles isn’t proud of everything it’s famous for. That’s why the Los Angeles City Council voted on Feb. 10 to instate two new programs to reduce hit-and-run crimes in the city.

Included are a new alert system that will enlist the public in catching perpetrators, and standing rewards for information that leads to convictions. The programs, championed by Councilmembers Mitchell Englander and Joe Buscaino, will be led by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Department of Transportation and the Emergency Management Department to reduce the more than 20,000 annual hit-and-runs in the city.

Los Angeles is far above average when it comes to hit-and-runs. More than half of all vehicle crashes in the city are hit-and-runs, compared to a national average of 11 percent. In 2014, 27 people were killed in hit-and-runs, and 144 sustained serious injury.

“It’s really become an epidemic,” Englander said. “People are leaving people on the side of the road to die like wounded animals. … It becomes a force multiplier having eyes and ears throughout the community.”

A new hit-and-run alert system will publicize serious hit-and-run crimes via the LAPD’s Twitter, Nixle and Facebook accounts. Information in the alerts will include license plate number, vehicle description and driver description. Pending state legislation introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto would also include alerts through the state’s Amber Alert system, an idea modeled after Denver’s Medina Alert system. Denver’s alert system, which was instated in 2013, has solved 13 of its 17 publicized hit-and-run cases.

A spokesperson for Englander’s office said there is no technical reason they can’t start doing this immediately. The process will simply require someone within the LAPD to post the details of the alert on social media when a serious hit-and-run crime occurs.

To encourage people to watch for alerts, the city will also offer standing rewards for information that leads to a hit-and-run conviction. A reward of $50,000 will be offered for hit-and-runs that cause a death, $25,000 for those involving serious injury, $5,000 involving temporary injury, and $1,000 for cases involving property damage.

The program is also expected to expanded to include a second phase in which the LAPD will cooperate with public vehicle dispatchers, like trash truck or bus drivers, and private dispatchers, like those who work for taxi services, Uber, Lyft or Waze. A date on the second phase’s implementation has not been announced, but a spokesperson from Englander’s office said it should only be a matter of months or weeks before this phase it instated, because there are no technical barriers to overcome, just relationships to form.

Englander added that auto body shops could be integrated in the alert network, so if they see blood or other clues on the vehicles of their customers, they can alert the police, and help cut down on the city’s problem.

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.

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