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Proposed “Jay Alerts” in Pennsylvania Could Help Catch Hit and Run Suspects

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Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a new strategy to curb the number of hit-and-run incidents that go unsolved across the state each year. They are suggesting using the blueprint of the Amber Alert system to help get the word out about hit-and-run incidents faster and provide a better chance to catch offenders.

Amber Alerts Used for Hit-And-Run Accidents in Philadelphia

The Amber Alert is used to track down children when investigators believe they have been abducted and are in imminent danger. The alerts are sent out quickly using cellphone messages, broadcast media, and traffic signs to spread information to other law enforcement and the public. Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D- Philadelphia/Delaware), introduced a proposal to create an expansion program called “Jay Alerts” to utilize alerts in the same way right after hit-and-runs occur.

Jay Alerts in Memory of Jayanna Powell

Senator Williams introduced Senate Bills 54 and 55 in a virtual policy hearing on October 15, 2020. The action comes after 8-year-old Jayanna Powell was killed in a West Philadelphia hit-and-run tragedy in 2016. The driver responsible was caught after a body shop owner recognized the car after seeing news reports. Williams said the expansion of the Amber Alert system would be known as “Jay Alerts,” in honor of the 8-year-old Jayanna.

The bills would allow descriptions of hit-and-run vehicles to be sent instantly to auto-body shops across the region and would also get information on hit-and-runs out to the public as soon as possible after an accident. The Jay Alerts would use many of the same channels Amber Alerts utilize to get vital details sent out quickly.

Motorists seeing a car matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle could then notify authorities. Auto Body Repair workers could also contact investigators if a damaged car matching the description arrived at their shop.

Hit-And-Run Accidents In Pennsylvania

Hit-and-Runs have become a massive problem for helpless victims and the Philadelphia Police Department. NBC10-TV reported the city saw an overwhelming 28,983 hit-and-run reports in 2017 and 2018. On average, Philadelphia police take nearly 40 calls a day about vehicular hit-and-runs. These cases tie up a substantial amount of investigators’ time and usually have a low rate of success in finding offenders.

Pennsylvania’s Jay Alert System Proposal

CBSN-TV reports that PennDOT estimates the cost of building the Jay Alert system would be somewhere around $375,000 and may take almost a year to put into use. Hearings over the bills will continue.

Any new initiative like the Jay Alert could help families who lose loved ones find closure when the driver responsible is quickly located and arrested. If there’s more chance of being caught, drivers may also be forced to think twice about speeding away and leaving an innocent victim behind.

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