Rewards will be automatically offered for hit-and-run drivers under an ordinance approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council.
Rewards for such crimes had required approval by the City Council on a case-by-case basis, but the ordinance sets up four levels of standing rewards, ranging from $1,000 to $50,000 depending on the severity of the crime.
Councilman Joe Buscaino, who pushed for the automatic reward offers, said he is hoping it will “end the culture of driver apathy” in which motorists hit pedestrians or bicyclists, then leave the victims to potentially die on the road.
Buscaino said the ordinance will help “send a message to these idiot drivers” that “they are being watched” and “will be caught.”
An awareness campaign employing social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be launched to inform the public about the new standing rewards.
Hit-and-run crashes last year resulted in 27 deaths and left 144 people seriously injured, according to figures provided by city officials.
There are typically about 20,000 hit-and-run crashes in the city each year, most of them minor. Drivers flee the scene of nearly half of vehicle crashes in Los Angeles, compared with 11 percent nationally, city officials said.
For hit-and-run crimes that result in property damage, the reward will be $1,000, with a $5,000 reward offered in cases that result in minor, non- permanent injuries. Permanent-injury cases will warrant a $25,000 reward, and a hit-and-run crime that results in a fatality will generate a $50,000 reward.
The rewards will be given to tipsters who provide information that helps authorities find, arrest and convict hit-and-run drivers. The issuance of the reward money will still require City Council approval. The city also offers standing rewards for graffiti and vandalism crimes.
The City Council earlier this year approved a program to send out alerts soon after a hit-and-run occurs — similar to an Amber Alert that is circulated during a kidnapping — after an attempt by state legislators to set up a statewide hit-and-run alert system failed.
The City Council also requires labeling hit-and-runs as crimes, rather than accidents.
—City News Service
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