Will NYC’s New Alert System Improve NYPD’s Abysmal Hit-and-Run Arrest Rate?

To help NYPD catch hit-and-run drivers, this weekend the city will launch an Amber Alert-style system to notify the public when a serious crash happens. Most drivers who critically injure or kill people and leave the scene in NYC are never arrested.

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, center, and other officials in 2016, after a hit-and-run driver killed Jean Paul Guerrero in Brooklyn. Guerrero’s alleged killer was arrested 11 months later. Photo: Office of Council Member Rodriguez
City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, center, and other officials in 2016, after a hit-and-run driver killed Jean Paul Guerrero in Brooklyn. Guerrero’s alleged killer was arrested 11 months later. Photo: Office of Council Member Rodriguez

Hit-and-run drivers have killed no fewer than five people walking and biking in NYC so far this year, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog. NYPD is known to have made an arrest in one case. If arrest rates from past years hold, at least two of the other four drivers will likely get away with it.

Over NYPD objections, in 2014 the city adopted a law that requires the department to publicize information on hit-and-run cases. Since the middle of 2015, NYPD has posted quarterly data reports on the number of hit-and-run crashes resulting in critical injury or death, and the number of such cases closed with and without an arrest.

Data from 2016 and 2017 show that NYPD hit-and-run arrest rates have improved somewhat since 2012, when there were 60 fatality investigations and just 15 arrests, according to Transportation Alternatives.

According to NYPD, last year 62 hit-and-run crashes resulted in critical injury. Over the course of the year investigators closed 26 critical injury hit-and-run investigations with an arrest and closed 31 cases without arresting anyone.

There were 60 hit-and-run crashes resulting in critical injury in 2016. NYPD closed 20 investigations with an arrest and 12 investigations with no arrest.

Still, the arrest rate for hit-and-run drivers who critically injure and kill people has remained below 50 percent.

This weekend the city is set to launch a system to alert New Yorkers when a serious hit-and-run crash happens. Spearheaded by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez in honor of hit-and-run victim Jean Paul Guerrero (a.k.a. DJ Jinx Paul), the idea is that Amber Alert-style notifications — through email, texts, phone calls, and media broadcasts — will help facilitate and expedite arrests.

“The ‘DJ Jinx Paul’ alert system will help us bring justice to the families of the victims and will send a message to drivers that they will no longer get away with this cowardly act,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

While the Amber Alert system may help apprehend drivers who flee the scene of the very worst collisions, New York’s hit-and-run problem extends far beyond crashes resulting in critical injury.

This month NYPD told council members that the total number of hit-and-run crashes rose last year compared to 2016, as did the number of crashes resulting in injury. In 2017, there were 5,138 injury-causing hit-and-run collisions, up from 5,066 the year before.

Overall, most drivers who strike people and flee the scene are never identified by police, let alone charged.

  • vnm

    Anyone have an estimate for how many people there are driving around out there with a guilty conscience that knows they killed someone and got away with it by simply driving away?

  • My estimate is 0. Someone with a guilty conscience would turn himself/herself in.

    Those who don’t turn themselves in do not feel guilty because they have accepted a version of events that exculpates themselves, a story in which their victim essentially was asking for it because the victim “came out of nowhere” or “was crossing against the light” or “was wearing dark clothing”. This is an easy step to take when you sstart with the underlying assumption that streets are for cars, and that everyone else has the responsibility to get out of the way.

  • Brian Howald

    What’s the threshold for “serious”?

    There are ~120 hit-and-runs a day in New York City, with about ten of them causing injury or death.

    I think it would make an impression on New Yorkers just how frequent these crashes are if they were to receive an alert once every few hours for a day.

  • Vooch

    appears some member of generation greed got a big fat contract for this useless amber alert system

  • reasonableexplanation

    So, they’re basing this on the AMBER alert system…. which doesn’t work:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/08/08/amber_alert_california_let_s_get_rid_of_the_amber_alert_system.html

    This is a move by politicians to make it look like they’re doing something, that’s all.

  • Peter Engel

    This cannot come soon enough. I’ve been on hyper-alert for 2 weeks, since those two children were murdered in Park Slope.

    Yesterday I was crossing Adams Street in downtown Brooklyn. A parent with two young children were crossing ahead of me. We had the walking signal. A Honda Pilot turned right from Fulton Street by the Shake Shack. It kept moving at 5-7mph. The parent jerked her children back.

    I ran and smacked on the rear of the Pilot. The driver stopped and rolled down his window. I went into full rage, threatening to rip his head off. I realized I had a friend’s scooter in my left hand and was ready to pound him with it. He rolled up his window and drove away.

    I am not posting this to show how tough I am. I was convulsing afterwards, realizing the great danger I might have put everyone in if this had escalated.

  • djx

    I’m not sure it’s zero.

    Some people might be so afraid of the impact on their lives. They may feel guilty, but not guilty enough to be willing to face the criminal and civil liability.

  • djx

    With this alert system, will NYPD have to start pre-emptively saying that the driver “may not have know he/she it anyone”?

    Oh wait, they already do that.

  • You are right, of course. In addition, a person who feels guilty might not turn himself/herself in simply on the principle of protecting his/her own interests, a principle which I, having worked in criminal defence for more than thirty years, can respect. I was more making a rhetorical point about the pervasiveness of driver entitlement than I was taking making a serious guess about the quantity of people who have a guilty conscience.

    Still, I believe that most Americans who wind up killing someone with their cars will tell themselves a version of the story that absolves themselves, and will arrive at that version by leaning on the assumptions (streets are for cars; pedestrians need to get out of the way) that they already accept and that are part of the society’s orthodoxy.

  • This incident shows how normalised the bullying of pedestrians is. The driver here clearly believed — as do the overwhelming majority of drivers — that the streets are for them, and that pedestrians have the responsibility to get out of the way.

    Without sustained blanket enforcement, this dynamic will never change, and the phenomenon of dangerous driver behaviour will never go away.

  • neroden

    I suspect a lot of the hit-and-runs are committed by the NYPD. Therfore I doubt this will help.

    The NYPD crime gang needs to be shut down. RICO would be appropriate.

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