Los Angeles Considering Automatic Rewards For Information In Hit-And-Runs

LOS ANGELES (CNS/FOX 11) - Rewards would be automatically offered for information leading to hit-and-run drivers under an ordinance backed Friday by the Los Angeles City Council's Public Safety Committee.

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Currently rewards for such crimes are approved by the City Council on a case-by-case basis.

If approved by the full City Council, the ordinance would allow for four levels of rewards, ranging from $1,000 to $50,000 depending on the severity.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who spearheaded the measure, said he hopes to end a "culture of driver apathy in the city of Los Angeles where we continue to hear the stories of motorists fleeing the scenes'' of traffic collisions.

"This standing reward will help deter people from ... leaving an accident, and also with great hopes of engaging the public to increase the number of witnesses who come forward,'' Buscaino said.

Hit-and-run crashes last year resulted in 27 deaths and 144 people seriously injured, according to figures provided earlier this year by Councilman Mitchell Englander, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

There are typically about 20,000 hit-and-run crashes in the city each year, most of them minor. Drivers flee the scene of nearly half of vehicle crashes in Los Angeles, compared with 11 percent nationally, Englander said.

For hit-and-run crimes that result in property damage, the reward would be $1,000, with a $5,000 reward offered in cases that result in minor, non-permanent injuries. Permanent-injury cases would warrant a $25,000 reward, and hit-and-run crimes that result in a fatality would generate a $50,000 reward.

The rewards would be given to people whose information helps authorities find, arrest and convict hit-and-run drivers, and the issuance of the reward money would still require City Council approval.

The city currently only offers standing rewards for graffiti and vandalism crimes.

The City Council earlier this year approved a city program to send out alerts soon after a hit-and-run occurs -- similar to an Amber Alert that is circulated during a kidnapping -- after an attempt by state legislators to set up a statewide hit-and-run alert system failed.

The City Council also officially requires labeling hit-and-runs -- which is illegal -- to be labeled as crimes, rather than as accidents.

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