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Hit-&-Run Amber Alerts Could Be Coming to L.A.

City Hall is taking on the hit-and-run epidemic in Los Angeles brought to light by L.A. Weekly.

See also: L.A.'s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic

There's a proposal to make a standing $50,000 reward available to help catch hit-and-run drivers. And the LAPD has been ordered to keep better records on these collisions.

Now L.A city Councilman Mitch Englander wants to explore instituting an Amber Alert-like system under which descriptions of hit-and-run drivers and their vehicles could be broadcast on electronic billboards immediately following the reported crimes:

The L.A. City Council yesterday unanimously approved a motion by Englander that encourages the state to create an Amber Alert-like system for hit-and-runs in California.

According to its language, the motion means that the city will ...

 ... SUPPORT and/or SPONSOR legislation to create a Medina Alert System for California that would issue alerts when a severe or fatal hit and run collision occurs and a vehicle description is available, similar to the system recently approved for Colorado.

Dennis Gleason of city Councilman Joe Buscaino's office and other officials discussed the hit-and-run notification idea today on KPCC (89.3 FM).

Colorado's Medina Alert System, in place since 2012 and named for 2011 fatality Jose Medina, utilizes roadside electronic billboards to alert the public about hit-and-runs suspects on the loose. 

The office of the city's Chief Legislative Analyst says that of 17 Medina Alerts issued in Colorado, 13 of the cases ended up being solved:

The Medina Alert System, which is modeled after the Amber Alert System, rapidly sends out information to the public on hit and runs when there is a serious injury or fatality and a reliable description of a vehicle. When a Medina Alert is issued, highway signs in the area of the crime display information on the vehicle involved, and the media is notified. Medina Alerts are designed to enable the public to assist law enforcement in tracking down perpetrators of hit and runs.

The highway signs might be a little busier here in Southern California. As we reported previously, there are nearly 20,000 hit-and-runs in Los Angeles each year.

Englander's office told us that since 2007 there have been nearly 1,000 hit-and-runs that ended in death or "severe" injuries. "It's a serious problem," a spokeswoman said.

[Added at 2:14 p.m.]: Englander told us that it would be up to state legislators about whether those alarming push notifications sent to your smartphone for Amber Alerts might also be used for hit-and-run notices.

He said that Nixle alerts, which can send you texts about crimes, could easily be utilized, however.

The councilman emphasized that the threshold for engaging the roadway sign system for L.A. hit-and-runs would be high, involving only the two or so per month cases involving death or "extreme" injury.

"You wouldn't be inundated with it," he said. "If you get too many alerts people don't pay attention. We recognize it. Let's go after these serious ones. It's a crime. We need to the public's help."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.