City Councilman Joe Buscaino, pointing to an "alarming" rash of hit-and-run crashes in the Los Angeles area, today proposed offering standing monetary rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of drivers who flee the scene of a collision.
A motion introduced by Buscaino calls for putting in place a $1,000 reward for collisions that result in property damage, $25,000 for collisions that cause "bodily injury" and $50,000 for those that result in death.
Rewards for information on hit-and-run crimes are currently offered on a case-by-case basis, with City Council approval required on each.
Buscaino wants automatic rewards to be offered on all hit-and-run crimes. Similar standing rewards programs are already in place for illegal dumping, graffiti and vandalism crimes, he said.
"We shouldn't wait for an incident to offer a reward, especially if we're trying to change the culture of hit-and-runs in the city of Los Angeles," Buscaino said.
He said that "if witnesses know, and drivers are well aware that they can be turned in, we hope to begin to change that culture and encourage motorists to stop, render aid and exchange information."
Buscaino said he hopes standing rewards for hit-and-runs "can become law in 30 to 60 days."
"We can no longer wait on this issue," he said, calling the 20,000 annual cases of hit-and-runs logged by the LAPD "alarming."
"The city of Los Angeles is known as the hit-and-run capital of the country, and we cannot stand for it," he said.
LAPD investigators say many hit-and-run cases go unsolved because of the "lack of evidence or testimony from witnesses," according to Buscaino's motion.
If the motion goes forward, the city attorney, chief legislative analyst and other city officials would be asked to report back on the fiscal impact and a process for offering a standing reward.
Several hours before Buscaino introduced the motion, a pedestrian was struck and killed in Hollywood by a hit-and-run driver.
In addition to his "standing reward," motion, Buscaino also called for a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is esponsible for the death of 26-year-old Manuel Ayala, who was struck Sept. 19 while crossing Pacific Coast Highway in Wilmington.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield also introducing a reward motion today involving an Aug. 26 hit-and-run collision that resulted in the death of an 84- year-old pedestrian with a walker who was crossing a street.
Raising penalties in hit-and-run cases has become the focus of both local and state leaders in recent months. A bill by Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Gatto to double the statute of limitations for hit-and-runs from three to six years is awaiting the governor's signature.
Buscaino said city officials are also urging state officials to make the penalties for hit-and-run offenses "on par with DUI offenses."