DENVER – 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, 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.
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.