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City Council Panel Looks To Stiffen Penalties For Hit-And-Run Drivers

LOS ANGELES ( — City officials on Friday called for lawmakers and police to take additional steps to help curb the rising number of hit-and-run incidents in Los Angeles.

An estimated 4,000 people are killed in nearly 20,000 reported hit-and-run incidents every year, the vast majority of which only involve property damage, according to police statistics.

KNX 1070's Jon Baird reports City Councilman Joe Buscaino is leading an effort to reclassify hit-and-run incidents as crimes instead of accidents.

City Council Panel Looks To Stiffen Penalties For Hit-And-Run Drivers

Nearly half of all total reported collisions - 48 percent - are of the hit- and-run variety, which is well above the 11 percent rate for hit-and-runs nationwide, City News Service reported.

At a meeting of the Public Safety Committee meeting, Buscaino - who currently chairs the committee - took aim at police efforts to combat the crime after introducing a motion in January (PDF) that states the "responsibility of following up on hit-and-run incidents lies with LAPD's Traffic Divisions."

"I don't think the Department is doing a good job of making this a priority," said Buscaino.

Deputy LAPD Chief Michael Downing agreed hit-and-runs are an issue, but that any effective campaign will require City Hall and law enforcement to work together.

"It can't just be the police department, the community has to be involved as well," Downing said.

Downing added that penalties should be increased for hit-and-runs, a recommendation that was supported by Buscaino.

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