Lawmakers Consider Hit-and-Run Alerts

AB 47, proposed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, proposes an Amber Alert-style system to catch drivers who flee the scene of accidents

The latest in a series of state and local bills aimed at stemming hit-and-run collisions on city streets would create a statewide "yellow alert" system designed to track down drivers in the minutes and hours after a crash.

AB 47, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, would create an Amber Alert-like system for hit-and-run crashes that involving another person.

The alerts would go out by text message and on overhead street signs in the minutes and hours after a crash, in the hopes someone may locate a suspect before they could repair a damaged car and get rid of evidence.

"I can't turn on the news without seeing yet another victim in yet another neighborhood," Gatto said. "I think it's time we say enough is enough."

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.

"These are crimes which, by their nature, occur at a high rate of speed and with clear means for fleeing the scene," Gatto said in a statement .

"The public is almost always needed to catch those who leave fellow citizens dying on the side of the road, and AB 47 will allow us to do so promptly, before the perpetrator can get away and cover up the evidence."

A similar measure is being considered locally.

City Councilman Mitchell 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.

Two weeks ago, the City Council approved Englander’s motion to ask LAPD to explore the idea, as well as a motion backing any similar state legislation.

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

Ten-year-old Jamila Walker was struck May 30 in a hit-and-run collision near the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall, suffering broken bones and a serious brain injury.

"He went around that bus and hit my daughter and she flew up in the air," said Daikesha Walker, Jamila's mother. 

Jamila remains at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and doctors say it's too early to tell if she will make a full recovery.

Her mother said it's frustrating police have been unable to locate the driver of the silver Toyota.

"It's really difficult for me and my daughter right now. We're dealing with it the best because of my daughter - she needs our strength." 

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

Last year, Gatto authored a bill to double the statute of limitations for hit-and-run crimes; and earlier this year he introduced a bill to require a mandatory license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run involving another person. 

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