DENVER (CBS4) – A lawmaker is sponsoring a bill in the Colorado General Assembly that would make the Medina Alert statewide. The alert is a tool that police in Denver and Aurora have been using to get information about suspected hit-and-run drivers out to the public.
The legislation would allow investigators to use the state’s variable message boards along the highways to further broadcast the alerts.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when someone has been left either with serious bodily injury or dead when people flee the scene of the crime, “ bill sponsor Rep. Kathleen Conti told CBS4. “ I’ve met some of the victims who’ve had the loss in these kind of accidents. And it’s just further complicated when there is no justice.”
The Medina Alert was started in 2012 by Larry Stevenson, a Denver city administrator. Police can only activate the alert if the case involves serious bodily injury or a fatality. The case also has to reach certain solvability factors:
– A witness description of a suspect
– A full or partial license plate number
– The make, model and style of the car
– Details of significant damage to the car
“Time is absolutely of the essence. Time and witness description of car and/or person. But it absolutely is of the essence,” Stevenson said.
The alert goes out from 911 operators and Crimestoppers in the form of texts, emails to transportation providers, like bus and taxi drivers and truckers, and also as news releases to various media organizations. So far, Stevenson says that the Medina Alert has been issued in 14 cases and all but 3 of them have been solved.
“It means increased safety of our collective communities. We all have to do our part. Law enforcement cannot be everywhere. We need to be extra eyes and ears … We need to protect one another,” Stevenson added.
The alert is named after Jose Medina, a 21-year-old valet who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2011. Every year, his mother leaves flowers at the spot where her son died.
“I love you … and I’m proud of you, son. You’re my angel,” Linda Limon Medina said as she thought about Jose as she taped flowers to a sign memorializing his death.
This year she asked to meet Stevenson, the man who turned Jose’s tragic death into a legacy of change. Stevenson remembers talking to Limon Medina at a memorial for her son at the time of his death.
“You don’t remember what you said to me?” Stevenson said to Limon Medina.
“No,” she replied.
“You said, ‘Don’t let them forget about my baby.’ You don’t remember that?” Stevenson said. “I haven’t let anyone forget about your baby.”
In the last year, the Medina Alert has become an important tool for police. Hit-and-run cases are considered one of the toughest crimes to solve.
“These are almost 100 percent of the time, stranger-on-stranger incidents. There’s no relationship, so there is nothing we can talk to the victim about,” said Lt. Robert Rock of the Denver police Traffic Division. “We have to go purely off (the fact that) this was an unknown individual who hurt this person or even killed someone. And those are by far the most difficult ones.”
Rock said that with the alert suspects will hopefully realize that there is a better chance more people in the community may recognize their car or their face.
“We’re illuminating what used to be the invisible. People are identifying what we called, ‘A Ghost’. You hit someone and you become a ghost,” Stevenson said.
– Written for CBSDenver.com by Special Projects Producer Libby Smith