A week ago, four-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and one-year-old Joshua Lew were killed in Park Slope, Brooklyn when a reckless driver ran a red light, as their mothers Lauren Lew and Ruthie Ann Blumenstein, were crossing the street. Dorothy Bruns, the driver, sped away and crashed into several cars.
Although Bruns was caught quickly, only about half of the drivers of vehicles involved in hit and run accidents get arrested, according to police statistics. Staring this Sunday, however, a new state law promises to reduce the number of hit-and-run fatalities in New York State by sending “hit and run” notifications to the public soon after they occur.
Nick named the “DJ Jinx Paul” alert, the new alert system honors DJ Jean Paul Guerrero from the popular radio station La Mega 97.9 FM who was killed in a hit and run accident in Nov. 2017. The alert system is going to be similar to the “amber” alert system. But instead of alerting New Yorkers to missing children, these alerts will give New Yorkers a fast notification via text message, email, social media, radio and television of the make, model, and color of car involved in serious accidents that have produced physical injuries or deaths.
“We are very filled with joy that this law is being passed for the police to find the person immediately for justice to be served, that’s all we want here,” said Gina Zarate, Guerrero’s relative in a press conference. “The pain is always going to be there.”
Guerrero’s father, Humberto, added that while he lost a son, he and his family hope the new alert system will help reduce the number of hit and run crashes in the state.
On average, one New Yorker is killed every week because of a hit-and-run, according to Council Chair of the Transportation Department, Ydanis Rodriguez, and sometimes it takes people many hours, or even days, to learn about the crash after it happens.
Despite existing safety regulations, hit-and-run crashes have been increasing in the state, devastating the lives of thousands of families in New York who have lost loved ones and threatening the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. The number of victims resulting in physical injury or death increased from 40,000 in 2015 to 46,006 in 2017, according to NYPD statistics.
The epidemic of hit and run accidents also encouraged New York State Senator Marisol Alcántara and Assembly Member Carmen de la Rosa to introduce a similar bill at state level to reduce the number of deaths from hit and run accidents.
Transportation chair Rodriguez and state legislator de la Rosa are also encouraging New Yorkers around the state to collaborate with the alert system by providing information to police and other law enforcement agencies in order to capture criminal drivers involved in hit and run incidents. Rodriguez said that to make this law more effective, he is also advocating for more officers to be assigned to the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, the team in charge of accident investigations in order to have better results in capturing hit and run drivers.
“We can’t give criminal drivers the opportunity to flee the country or the state,” said de la Rosa. “In this case, justice delay is justice denied.”