DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Colorado will be the first state to issue statewide roadside and broadcast alerts for hit-and-run crashes under a bill signed into law Tuesday.
The law creates an Amber Alert-style notification system when authorities are looking for vehicles involved in serious hit-and-run crashes. The system includes quickly alerting the media and issuing bulletins on electronic highway signs that describe the fleeing vehicles. It will be implemented next year.
“It allows us to push back against hit and run,” Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “And I think people feel that they get away with this, and as we do a better job of apprehending them, that will change.”
The notifications will be called “Medina Alerts,” after 21-year-old valet worker Jose Medina, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Denver three years ago. When Medina was struck by a car, a Metro Taxi driver followed the vehicle, wrote down its license plate number and helped authorities locate the driver.
Medina’s mother, Linda Limon, wiped away tears during Tuesday’s signing ceremony as she stood next to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who put his arm around her to comfort her.
“I believe that Jose is smiling down on all of us in the state of Colorado and thanking us,” Hancock said before the bill signing.
“It took a big loss for my baby to be gone, but he still walks this earth and is going to have other families, other victims, brothers, sister, mother, father, grandparents — it will help them to understand that, ‘Don’t give up,’ “Limon said.
Denver and Aurora already have citywide Medina Alerts, created by former police officer Larry Stevenson. During the two years they’ve been in place, there have been 17 alerts that resulted in 13 cases being solved.
Stevenson said Colorado’s law sets up the first statewide hit-and-run alert system.
“It becomes the template for the country, if not the globe,” Stevenson said. He added Washington state, Oregon, Nebraska and Utah are interested in following suit.
Stevenson also helped launch the “Taxis on Patrol” program with Metro Taxi, which trains drivers to notify law enforcement about suspicious activity. At the time of the hit-and-run that killed Medina, the program was less than a day old.
After Medina’s memorial, Stevenson had a conversation with Medina’s mother.
“She just made that comment, ‘Don’t let them forget about my baby,'” Stevenson said.
A Medina Alert would go out if police have the following information:
- 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
Denver Mayor Hancock Statement On Signing Of State Media Alert Bill
“Thank you to the Governor and State Legislature for bringing this important public safety tool to a statewide level. The Medina Alert will work to galvanize the entire community to assist law enforcement in the search, reporting and apprehension of a suspect or vehicle involved in a hit-and-run. With the Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Bureau of Investigation as partners in this effort, we will now be even more successful.
“Since 2012, through the Medina Alert program, Denver, Aurora and Arapahoe County have been able to coordinate our resources to effectively address these careless crimes. Yet another fine example of the region coming together to get things done. We look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead to collaborate statewide efforts that will enhance safety in our communities.”
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
CBS4 stafff contributed to this story.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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