LA City Officials Release Hit-And-Run Alert System To Public

(FOX 11 / CNS) Alerts will be sent to residents about hit-and-run drivers under a program introduced today by the city, and the City Council will also consider offering automatic cash rewards for people who help authorities capture motorists who flee the scene of a traffic collision.

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The city will send out alerts over the city's existing communication channels, such as social media, emergency alert system and internal dispatch systems, Councilmen Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino said. The alerts will contain descriptions of vehicles and drivers who flee the scene of fatal and severe hit-and-run crashes.

The program is similar to Amber Alerts, which notify the public of a child kidnappings, and is inspired by Medina Alerts, a Denver program also focused on hit-and-run crimes.

"When somebody hits somebody on the side of a road and leaves them there to die ... it's inhumane, and it's a crime," Englander, who proposed the program, told his council colleagues.

Englander said the city will send out the year, make, model, color and other available information about the vehicles of hit-and-run drivers.

The city's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts will be used, as well as the Los Angeles Police Department's Nixle and the Emergency Management Department's Notify-LA text-messaging alert systems.

Englander said all city departments could have a role, including sanitation workers working their routes, as well as bus drivers and other city employees on the city's dispatch system.

He said the city will also reach out to to taxicab companies and rideshare app companies Uber and Lyft.

Councilman Paul Krekorian suggested that body shops be included in the alerts.

Englander said the alert system is aimed at curbing hit-and-run crimes, which have reached epidemic-levels in Los Angeles, killing 27 and seriously injuring 144 people last year.

There are typically about 20,000 hit-and-runs each year, most of them minor, but drivers in Los Angeles are likelier to flee the scene, council members said. Drivers flee the scene of nearly half of vehicle crashes in Los Angeles, compared with 11 percent nationally.

The council recently voted to support state legislation that would create a statewide alert system for hit-and-run crimes, but Englander said city officials have the ability to implement their own program immediately.

The City Council today also instructed city attorneys to prepare an ordinance that would set up a standing reward for people who help find, arrest and convict hit-and-run drivers. The automatic reward -- similar to one that already exists for graffiti and vandalism crimes -- would be $1,000 for property damage, $5,000 for minor injury, $25,000 for serious injuries and $50,000 if the hit-and-run is fatal.

"The cost of our criminal justice system is far more expensive than implementing this standing reward system," Buscaino said.

Buscaino said once the reward is set up, the city will begin a media campaign to get the public to raise awareness about hit-and-run crimes.

"We are urging all Angelenos to help us combat this ugly culture of driver apathy," Buscaino said. "You will be rewarded for doing your part in ensuring public safety in the city of Los Angeles."

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