Assemblyman Mike Gatto

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, Calif. Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Glendale) fight to reduce hit-and-run crimes continued when the Assembly Public Safety Committee voted to approve his AB 8. The measure would establish the “Yellow Alert” system, which would allow law enforcement to engage other drivers to help identify and apprehend hit-and-run perpetrators.

AB 8 would enable the use of the state’s existing network of freeway signs to broadcast information about vehicles suspected in hit-and-run incidents. Use of the system would be limited to hit-and-runs that result in death or serious bodily injury. Alerts would be issued by local law enforcement when there is a sufficient description of the offending vehicle or the identity of the suspect is known. A “Yellow Alert” would be limited to the area where the hit-and-run crime occurred. When Denver created a similar alert system in 2012, they saw a 76% arrest rate in cases where the alert was activated, compared to a previous arrest rate of around 20%. The success of the program prompted Colorado’s legislature to implement the program statewide.

“It’s gotten to the point to where not a single weekend goes by without another hit-and-run tragedy,” said Gatto. “People flee because there’s little chance they will be caught.”

Matters are so bad that local officials and community members are taking matters into their own hands. Los Angeles City officials are now offering a $50,000 standing reward for information in hit-and-run cases. Traffic app Waze is sharing hit-and-run data with Waze users, and the mother of a hit-and-run victim in Orange County has petitioned every city in that county to create a hit-and-run alert system.

“California has the existing alert infrastructure in place and it costs us next to nothing to use it,” said Gatto.

In 2013, Gatto authored AB 184, which doubled the statute of limitations to prosecute hit-and-run drivers. In 2014, he authored AB 47 and AB 1532, the latter of which would require mandatory license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run involving a person. Both bills passed the legislature with overwhelming majorities. Despite the bipartisan support and narrowly tailored language of AB 47, Governor Brown vetoed the bill in September.

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Consumer Protection and Privacy Committee, and currently the longest-serving member in the State Assembly. He represents California’s 43rd Assembly District, which includes Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake.