SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, the Calif. State Assembly approved legislation to reduce the number of hit-and-runs by a vote of 68-0, sending the bill to the Governor for his signature. AB 8, by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), will establish a “Yellow Alert” system, allowing law-enforcement officials to engage drivers in identifying and apprehending hit-and-run drivers.
The bill will permit law-enforcement officers to utilize the state’s existing network of freeway signs to broadcast information about vehicles suspected in hit-and-run incidents. Alerts will only be issued by local law-enforcement when there is a sufficient description of the offending vehicle or the identity of the suspect is known. The “Yellow Alert” system will also be limited to the geographic area where the hit-and-run crime occurred and will only be implemented when the hit-and-run results in death or serious bodily injury.
When the City of Denver instituted a similar alert system in 2012, they saw a 76% arrest rate in cases where the alert was activated. The success of the program prompted Colorado’s legislature to implement the program statewide.
“People flee because they know there’s little chance that they’ll be caught.” said Gatto. “The Yellow Alert provides another tool for law enforcement to apprehend these criminals and have them brought to justice.”
Hit-and-run accidents grew so out of hand that local officials and community members are starting to take action themselves. Los Angeles City officials are now offering a $50,000 standing reward for information in hit-and-run cases, and the mother of a hit-and-run victim in Orange County, Julie Creed, has petitioned every city in that county to create a hit-and-run alert system.
L.A. Weekly reported that in 2009, 48% of collisions in Los Angeles were hit-and-run incidents and USA TODAY called Los Angeles “ground zero” for hit-and-run incidents. The Los Angeles Police Department reported that 80% of all hit-and-run crimes were unsolved from 2008 to 2012. However, the problem goes beyond the Greater Los Angeles Area. An article by the East Bay Express revealed that in 2014, only 3% of hit-and-run crimes in Oakland involving bodily injury led to charges being filed.
“This bill is just as much about preventing hit-and-runs as it is about solving them,” said Gatto. “If people know that their information will be broadcast on these signs and there’s a chance they’ll be caught, the likelihood of them fleeing will decrease.”
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. Despite the bipartisan support and narrowly tailored language of AB 47, Governor Brown vetoed the bill last year.
Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Consumer Protection and Privacy Committee, and the longest-serving current 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. www.asm.ca.gov/gatto