Rodriguez Proposes Amber Alert System to Nab Fatal Hit-and-Run Drivers

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez with members of Families for Safe Streets outside City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer
Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez with members of Families for Safe Streets outside City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

In the past week alone, hit-and-run drivers have killed three pedestrians in New York City. All told, there were 39 fatal hit-and-runs last year, an increase of 34 percent from 2015, according to data compiled by Transportation Alternatives.

This morning, members of TA and Families for Safe Streets gathered outside City Hall with City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez to announce a legislative package aimed at combatting the growing hit-and-run epidemic.

“Hit-and-run crashes are preventable, yet they occur far too frequently,” Rodriguez said.

Following the hit-and-run death of radio personality Jean Paul Guerrero last month, Rodriguez announced plans to “create a reward fund to assist the NYPD” in apprehending hit-and-run drivers. The legislation, Intro. 1418, would authorize rewards of up to $1,000.

After the hit-and-run killings of Evedette Sanchez on December 28 and Thomas Bradley Jr. and an unidentified man on New Year’s Day, Rodriguez plans to add two more bills.

One would create a citywide Amber Alert-type system for hit-and-run crashes. The alerts, which California cities began using last year, would disseminate information to the public about at-large vehicles and motorists via text message.

Another bill would require the NYPD to investigate all hit-and-run crashes, including the 35,000 or so that only involve property damage. That proposal could face resistance from the police department. There are about 40,000 hit-and-runs annually in NYC, 4,000 of which caused personal injury. In 2015, fewer than 1,000 hit-and-run crashes led to charges or moving violations.

NYPD officials have shown reluctance to document — let alone investigate — hit-and-runs that don’t involve fatalities or severe injuries.

Rodriguez said he will introduce both bills within the coming months. He also reiterated his call for increased funding for the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, which only investigates about 300 crashes annually, said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White. That leaves thousands of serious injury crashes uninvestigated each year.

“We need to put more resources to increase the number of men and women that are in charge of investigating those cases,” Rodriguez said.

For mothers like Marta Puruncajas, whose teenage son Luis Bravo was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Woodside in 2013, holding reckless drivers accountable is essential to preventing future tragedies.

“We want to see… authorities who agree with us that we need justice, so there are no more hit-and-runs like this,” Puruncajas said in Spanish. “Because the pain stays with you for the rest of your life.”