According to JD Supra, the Denver Police Department solves approximately 78 percent of the city’s hit-and-run cases, as compared to Los Angeles, where about 80 percent of the hit-and-run cases occurring between 2008 and 2012 were never solved. What makes the difference?

Medina Alerts.

Medina Alert is a program that is similar to an Amber Alert system for abducted children, but instead designed to apprehend hit-and-run drivers. It was named for 21-year-old Jose Medina, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on his first day on the job as a parking valet in Denver. After Medina was struck, a taxi driver followed the car, wrote down its license plate, and helped police locate the driver.

As a result, former Denver police officer Larry Stevenson created the Medina Alert system to help crack down on hit-and-run drivers. The Medina Alert program was introduced in the city in 2012, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper approved it for statewide use in March 2014.

How Do Medina Alerts Work?

In cases involving serious injury or death where a reliable description of the fleeing vehicle is available, authorities can broadcast that information quickly on electronic billboards and via the media where cab drivers, patrol cars, cab drivers, news outlets, truck drivers, and others who spend their shifts on the road are often able to offer assistance in apprehending the suspect. The system also displays a message on traffic reader boards and on the Crime Stoppers’ Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Other States Following Colorado’s Lead?

Although Colorado was the first state to adopt such an alert system for hit-and-run car accidents, other states have expressed interest, and Los Angeles officials recently approved launching a similar program there. The Los Angeles program will allow city departments to put out notifications on the city’s Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as the Emergency Management Department’s NotifyLA texting system, post notifications on Nixle, a Web platform that allows government agencies to share information, inform bus and taxi drivers via dispatch systems, and offers substantial rewards to witnesses who come forward with information leading to a hit-and-run arrest:

  • $1,000 for property damage
  • $5,000 for hit-and-run accidents that result in minor injuries
  • $25,000 for accidents involving serious injuries
  • $50,000 for accidents resulting in fatalities

Unfortunately, although the Medina Alert program is helping Colorado law enforcement apprehend more hit-and-run drivers, there were more such accidents in 2014 than in 2013, according to a 9News report. By the end of 2014, 22 Coloradoans had been killed by hit-and-run drivers during the year, as compared with 18 in 2013, and the Denver metro area experienced a slight rise in hit-and-run injuries during 2014. Although there is no clear cause for the increase, a hit-and-run driver’s level of impairment is often a major factor in his decision to leave the scene of an accident.

Image by Jason Thien

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