Hit-and-run cases are often unsolved, but there are ways to help the police get to the bottom of the case. The first step is gathering evidence. This evidence can include witnesses, security footage, and photos of the scene. Other valuable evidence comes from forensic tests, such as paint chips and tire marks. This evidence can narrow down the type of vehicle involved. In some cases, witnesses can even provide a license plate number. However, this type of evidence is rare, and that is why hit-and-run cases often remain unsolved.
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Despite the New York City Police Department’s focus on Vision Zero, hit-and-run cases often go unsolved, and police made arrests in fewer than one percent of cases last year. These investigations are difficult and take time, as detectives must speak with witnesses, gather evidence, and recreate the crime scene. As a result, hit-and-run cases are not usually given top priority by the NYPD.
The LAPD has received a lot of criticism for historically placing a low priority on hit-and-run cases. The department only assigns about 12 traffic officers to each of its four divisions. This is even though the department handles more traffic fatalities than any other unit. While the LAPD has made some progress in reducing the number of hit-and-runs, it is still far from satisfactory. Only about one in ten cases are successfully resolved. In addition, most hit-and-runs that are investigated do not result in a conviction. The driver is usually given only a slap on the wrist and released.
In a hit-and-run accident, the person who caused the accident is often not identified. Because such collisions typically occur at night and with limited visibility, eyewitnesses can be difficult to find. The SFPD may not even know the driver’s name or where he lived.
Hit-and-run crashes are a common occurrence in the Chicago area. Every year, Chicago experiences almost 100 fatalities and injuries as a result of these collisions. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of these crashes rarely get caught. In fact, in Chicago alone, police made just 95 arrests between January 2014 and May 2021. That is about one arrest per 100 crashes, which is far lower than the rate in New York City or Los Angeles.
Thousands of hit-and-run crashes take place in Philadelphia each year. While many of these involve property damage, some result in serious injury or death. Approximately nine of those fatalities are unsolved. One of these cases was a hit-and-run that killed a 5-year-old boy. His mother was devastated and cried for weeks after the crash.
“Yellow Alert” is a California law that was passed by lawmakers in 2016. Its goal is to improve the apprehension of hit-and-run drivers. It went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, and is similar to an Amber Alert system for missing children. It can flash the license plate number of a vehicle and send the information to media outlets. Other states such as Maryland and Colorado already use similar systems.
Until recently, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Collision Investigation Squad dealt with about 20 percent of hit-and-runs. However, that number has decreased since the city revamped its traffic division. The new methodology takes into account that nine out of ten security camera recordings do not capture the license plate, and if the victim is not seriously injured, it is less likely that they will pursue charges.