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.

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