Rodriguez Bill Would Use Taxi TV to Help NYPD Close Hit-and-Run Cases

A bill introduced today by City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez [PDF] would require all street hail taxis to display notifications from NYPD about wanted hit-and-run drivers using in-vehicle screens like Taxi TV. If utilized by NYPD, the hope is the technology will help improve the department’s low closure rate for hit-and-run cases.

Taxi TV could help police track down hit-and-run drivers. Photo: nlaspf/Flickr

Taxi TV could help police track down hit-and-run drivers. Photo: nlaspf/Flickr

“Too often hit-and-run drivers escape the scene and avoid punishment for their crimes. I hope that this bill will be effective in holding hit-and-run drivers accountable,” Rodriguez said. “I want to bolster the NYPD’s efforts in locating these drivers so that no one escapes responsibility for their heinous actions.”

The bill, first reported by Capital New York, comes at a time when efforts in other states to broadcast hit-and-run information using AMBER Alert-like systems are gaining steam. The system in Colorado, named the Medina Alert in memory of a hit-and-run victim, sends television, radio, text message, and billboard announcements when police are searching for a hit-and-run driver who has caused death or serious injury. Announcements are sent to police cruisers, taxi drivers, media, truck drivers, and pedicab operators. After an initial implementation in Denver and Aurora, the state passed a law expanding the Medina Alert system statewide earlier this year.

In Oregon, a woman whose son was killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver is hoping that state’s lawmakers will follow suit. California appears poised to pass legislation for a hit-and-run alert system; a bill there has cleared both the Assembly and a Senate committee.

These types of systems are not yet available here. New York State Police told Streetsblog that troopers issue statements to the force’s website, send out social media alerts, and call media outlets directly when requesting the public’s assistance in searching for hit-and-run drivers. NYPD has not replied to a request for comment about its hit-and-run notification protocol.

Quickly and widely disseminating information about wanted drivers could help improve NYPD’s abysmal case closure rate. Denver saw a 76 percent hit-and-run case closure rate, with police solving 13 of 17 hit-and-runs that triggered the Medina Alert, according to the legislative report for the California bill.

NYPD’s numbers are not as impressive, and the City Council has pushed for more disclosure from the department about its hit-and-run investigations. In 2012, the department’s Collision Investigation Squad launched about 60 hit-and-run investigations. Of those, only 15 resulted in arrest, according to Transportation Alternatives, leading to a closure rate of just 25 percent. 

Rodriguez may consider pushing for a more aggressive alert system in the future, but called today’s introduction “the initial step” in improving searches for wanted hit-and-run drivers. “The council member has not had conversations about using the the full AMBER Alert system to locate hit-and-run drivers but this is something we may consider,” Rodriguez spokesperson Russell Murphy said in an email. “We’ll be working with the administration to hammer out a complete product that best achieves the goal of holding hit-and-run drivers accountable.”