Alert System Proposed to Find Hit-and-Run Drivers

Similar to an Amber Alert for missing children, the proposed system would notify residents electronically when there is a hit-and-run

A system modeled after the Amber Alert notification system could aid police in locating hit-and-run drivers, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander said Wednesday.

The idea is patterned after Colorado’s Medina Alert, which went into law in March. Named after 21-year-old Jose Medina of Denver, who was working as a valet when he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2011, the program uses electronic signs to notify drivers that police are looking for someone.

“We need to utilize the technology we have in place today - whether it’s an Amber Alert-type system, whether it’s reverse 911… A blast of text messages,” said Englander, who co-authored the motion presented Wednesday asking the council to support the creation of a program at the state level.

The City Council passed both motions Wednesday.

Englander introduced a similar motion to a city committee in April, asking LAPD to examine the feasibility of creating a program in Los Angeles that is similar to Colorado’s system.

The idea is that direct alerts would be sent out to residents’ cell phones or other devices, and the electronic signs on highways would be used to notify drivers who might see the wanted car on the road. Englander also hopes alerts can go out to taxi cabs, and can be included in popular ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

Denver has issued 17 Medina Alerts since its implementation; 13 of the cases have been solved.

Michael Bell's son was seriously injured by a fleeing blue-green pickup truck last month in Stanton. Bell is a supporter of Englander's proposal.

"Had that information got out in some type other way, it might have spread out like an Amber Alert and perhaps that would have made the difference," Bell said.

In Los Angeles, there is an average of more than a hundred fatal or severe injury hit-and-runs every year, in addition to thousands involving only minor injury or property damage.

"These are people that are leaving folks on the side of the road to die, these are heinous crimes, these are cowards," Englander said. 

LAPD reported that it was able to solve 20 percent of these type of collisions between 2007 and 2011.

“We need to use everything we can within the tools we have and get the public's help to crack down on these types of crimes. It's got to stop,” Englander said. 

The LA City Council is pushing the state and the LAPD to implement the system. LA City Councilman Gil Cedillo, however, wants to ensure that an alert system would not target undocumented immigrants for minor offenses.

"I know that in too many instances, people flee a fender bender because they know that the penalty is not simply going to be a ticket," Cedillo said, "but in fact it’s gonna be a separation of a family."

NBC4's Samia Khan contributed to this report.

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