Last Update: Thursday, December 05, 2013
|A Hit and Run Epidemic in the Valley|
|Written by Alex Garcia|
|Thursday, 22 August 2013 07:54|
Photo Credit LAPD
Police are searching for a gray Hyundai like the one pictured above, model year 2010-2013, that was involved in a weekend fatal hit-and-run incident on Ventura Boulevard, west of Kester Avenue.
Two separate fatal hit-andrun accidents that recently took place in Studio City and Sherman Oaks illustrate the epidemic these types of incidents represent in the San Fernando Valley and the entire City of Los Angeles where, according to law enforcement officials, every year has about 20,000 such cases, many of them with deadly consequences.
Just in 2010 alone, there were 13,902 traffic collisions reported in the San Fernando Valley Traffic Division and 6,341 of those were hit-and-run accidents.
In the city of Los Angeles, hit-and-run drivers kill or badly maim about 22 bicyclists, 40 motorists and 92 pedestrians each year. Another 324 bicyclists, 1,004 pedestrians and 2,293 motorists are injured less severely each year.
"While over the last five years (2007-2012) the vast majority of hit-and-run collisions involve property damage only, more individuals were killed or severely injured as a result of a hit-andrun collision than by driving under the influence collisions," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, in a report on hit-and-run accidents presented to the Police Commission in June of this year.
"Additionally, while pedestrian fatal and severe injury hit-and-run collisions have decreased 33 percent over the past five years, bicycle fatal and severe injury collisions have increased," Beck said. "Hitand- run traffic collisions were associated with more fatal and severe collisions within the City than were DUI."
Indeed, while DUI cases were responsible for 355 deaths over the five-year span, hit-and-run accidents took 769 lives. Valley Fatals Police are still looking for two drivers who left the scenes of two accidents on Saturday, Aug. 17 that caused the deaths of two people.
A white Mercedes with possibly black paper plates with Encino written in yellow on them should have major frontend damage and possibly a broken windshield after hitting and killing a pedestrian who tried to cross the street in Studio City. Michael Spencer Bonanoma, 35, of Santa Monica, died in the accident that took place on Ventura Boulevard at Fairway Avenue around 11:45 p.m., LAPD officials said.
The victim "appeared to have been intoxicated," as he sat on the curb on Ventura Boulevard and tried to eat a sandwich, then got up and tried to cross the street outside a crosswalk, according to witnesses and police. He was carried almost 100 yards after being struck by the Mercedes, which kept on going eastbound on Ventura Boulevard without stopping.
The Second Accident Two hours later, at about 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18, a gray four-door Hyundai SUV (model year 2010-2013) was going west on Ventura Boulevard when it struck the open door of a parked Ford Focus at a valet-parking stop as the driver was getting in. The Ford driver, identified as Ernesto Melendez, 23, was knocked "over his car and landed in the street", suffering severe injuries that caused his death later that day, officials said. The Hyundai also struck the rear of an unattended parked vehicle directly in front of the Ford Focus before the Hyundai driver sped away west on Ventura Boulevard, authorities said.
"We don't know what the circumstances of the accidents are," said LAPD spokesperson Cleon Joseph, who recommended that "the best thing for you to do is turn yourself in" after a crash, no matter the situation.
"If not, we will find the way to investigate and justice will come swiftly for you," he warned. The LAPD is checking body shops to see if anyone has brought in vehicles that match the description of those involved in the crashes over the weekend.
"The penalties for running over someone and leaving the scene vary depending on the gravity of each victim," said spokesman Andrew Chick of the LAPD Valley Traffic Division. "It's not the same if the person suffers some cuts on the face, as opposed to dying. The penalties also depend on the prosecutor for each city."
Stiffer Penalties Considered
Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino (15th District), chair of the Council Public Safety Committee, wants to create legislation to increase the penalties for those who leave the scene of accidents.
"The responsibility of following up on hit-and-run incidents lies with LAPD's traffic divisions, who are tasked with investigation of hit-and-run crimes but are stretched thin, with an estimated 12 traffic officers per four divisions investigating 400 hit-and-run incidents per year," reads a motion presented by the committee on July 26.
Buscaino, a former police officer, wants to reclassify hitand- run cases as crimes, instead of accidents. He is expected to bring his idea to the full council in the near future.
"Whether an injury occurred or not, a hit-and-run victim is a hit-and run-victim," Buscaino said at the meeting. "We clearly have a problem."
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Valley Traffic Investigator Martinez, #34876, at (818) 644- 8032. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877- LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800- 222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting the word "TIPLA" and the message to phone number 274637 (C-R-IM- E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. Tipsters may also go to www.lacrimestoppers.org, click on "Submit a Tip" and follow the prompts.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 08:02|