How Hard is it to Track Down a Hit and Run Driver?

Photo by PoPville flickr user DCin3MP

A resident writes on the MPD-1st District listserv:

“I guess I’m just naïve, but after my husband and I helped a poor man hit on his bicycle by a hit-and-run driver three weeks ago, we assumed that the driver would be found quickly because, although no one saw a complete license plate number, we got the state (DC), the last four digits, and the make and color of the car, as well as a pretty good description of the driver. Three weeks (and several unreturned phone calls) later, I just learned that nothing has been done because there are “a huge number” of DC plates with the same last four digits, and apparently no one is willing to cross check for a black Volvo. Is it really that hard to run a partial license plate? From my uninformed perspective, it just seems like there isn’t any interest in following up. But I’m happy to be corrected by an expert.”

MPD responds:

“I’m not sure who you called but we do have a hit and run investigator here at 1D that has closed numerous cases. Sometimes we get partials and when we run them they don’t match the description of the car- and this is a time consuming process.

If you have further questions please email our coordinator at [email protected] if you have the report numbers that would be beneficial to address this specific crash, if not the date/time and location should provide her with the information to assist you. However, any information regarding specific progress, identity of the driver etc will generally not be provided to non-involved parties until after any arrests (and that’s if an identification is needed from independent witnesses it will not taint that identification).”

38 Comment

  • I saw a hit and run on Wisconsin Ave. few months back where the license plate fell of the car as it was speeding away.

    I was standing at the intersection, picked up the plate and handed it to the driver of the car that had been rear-ended.

  • I have to assume the biker “victim” was crossing the road on a red light like all of them do all the time because they wine about “sharing the road” but for some reason think that streetlights and laws of the road don’t apply to them. no sympathy for bikers.

    • AAAAND to piggy back that, they almost run fair pedestrians over, too and they never look sorry about it. More like, I got wheels and you don’t. Let me just remind you, biker friend, that you are on a bike, not in a hot rod, so those looks of inferiority aimed at pedestrians make you look like an a-hole.

    • Wow, nice assumption! Cars can never be in the wrong? Congrats on being a huge asshole, because you are.

    • What’s up with the trolls today?

    • I have to assume the driver “perpetrator” was talking on a cell phone or texting or fiddling with the radio or reading the paper or reaching for the fry they dropped on the floor like all of them do all the time because they feel entitled about “owning the road” but for some reason think that basic f*cking common sense and laws of the physics don’t apply to them. no sympathy for drivers if they get caught doing reckless and stupid sh*t.

    • Why don’t you lay off the anger? I feel like I’m getting hit with little flecks of your spit just reading this. It’s mean and inconsiderate to wish harm on an actual person who was hit by a car, you know.

      Golden rule, and all that jazz.

    • wishing physical harm on anyone, whether it was their fault or not, is gross. We’ve all made mistakes before and could have at anytime been hit by a car. Whether it be as a driver, pedestrian or cyclist. None of us are perfect. I myself have stepped into traffic at a cross walk without paying attention or cruised through a stop sign when I shouldn’t have. And anyone who says they haven’t is a liar.

    • Shouldn’t feed this troll, but… my brother was just hit, on his bike, by a truck running a red. Seriously injured. Rage!

  • Also, why don’t you post the last four numbers here and maybe a reader will see the same volvo?

  • My car (and a bunch of others) was hit while parked back in like 2007, and MPD never caught the guy. There was a witness who got a partial plate number on the SUV, too. When I talked to my insurance company, the claims adjuster let me know up-front that MPD are notoriously bad at following-up on these types of things.

  • the real problem is that these aren’t treated as assaults, but as “accidents” that, because they involve bicycles, involve very little vehicle damage, thus are not treated with any priority by MPD.

    based on the lack of respect for bikers from drivers and the ridiculous lack of protection bikers get from the cops, its amazing to me that there is any expectation for bikers to follow any rules of the road other than “protect yourself.”

  • I wonder how difficult it is to actually find out who your hit and run driver is with that much information.

    I think we may all be conditioned by stupid movies and TV shows that have cops turn on their computer, take some inadequate information and have a flawless photo of the driver and a solid address within 30 seconds. Then of course they get their partners, slap the red light on top of their unmarked car and go chase down the guy immediately as if it’s the only thing they’re working on that month.

    Does anybody ACTUALLY KNOW how hard it is to locate a hit and run driver?

    • Amen.

      As a librarian many patrons ask what they think is an easy question only to find out for a multitude of reasons that it can’t be done (or hasn’t been done).

    • If there is a database of all license plates you can create a list of all that end in those four numbers. Then eliminate all the ones which are not the make and model reported. Even without a computer search, this process wouldn’t take an hour manually.

  • I would assume it takes only seconds to get the list of cars that match the description. Aren’t all the cars in the database already with their information such as make, model, color, plate numbers?

    • This assumes that the plate was actually registered to the car and not stolen, switched, etc.

  • Any info on the horrible hit and run Friday night at 13th and Quincy?

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Sorry, I just saw a report that it happened but haven’t seen any updates since. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

      • As for the hit and run Friday night, a car hit a motorcycle, then reversed and ran over the motorcylist again as the car driver was trying to get out of there as fast as he could, then the cyclist was somehow caught on the car and the vehicle took off nearly a block, dragging the cyclist, before the motorcyclist was somehow freed, then the vehicle sped off. It sickens me that there are people that would do such a thing. I sure hope he’s caught.

  • Can we get those last 4 digits on the site? Maybe one of the readers is this guy’s neighbor.

  • I also witnessed the hit and run on 13th Street on Friday, and I’m still trying to recover from the lack of compassion, responsibility and plain brutality of the driver. I sure hope he/she gets caught. And I’m also hoping the cyclist recovers both physically and emotionally.

  • My wife and i were hit by a hit and run driver. we got the make and a FULL plate number. I was expecting the police to call in an APB. Instead DCPD showed up, took down our info and filed a report. the case was then handed over to the hit and run unit. After a few weeks, they discovered the women who owned the car. She claimed someone who she declined to identify stole her keys. And that’s how the case ended. Apparently DCPD was unable to penetrate the “wasn’t me defense.” I got the sense that they go after people with parking tickets harder than they went after these guys. With 5K in damages and no one seriously hurt i guess it is not a priority.

    • horrible. i’m so sorry. you should keep at this. get the mayors office involved. thats just unacceptable.

  • My car was hit by a hit and run driver last year. I got full license plate and color but not make of the car they took my information and the 2 witnesses. I’m not sure if charges were ever filed but I gave the information to Geico (my insurance) who tracked the person down (who ended up also having geico) and despite the fact they denied it I received a check for 2500 to repair the damages. I would see if that person checks with their insurance and see if their access to databases is better

  • It’s a DC plate? You do remember that DC is one of the smallest license-plate issuing jurisdictions in the Continental US, right? Assuming it’s the current standard issue plate, I think we’re only up to the DM or DN series, and we don’t use I, O, or Q, so there are about 80 possibilities. You can do this search with nothing more than MS Access. For MPD not to have this done and done quickly is just plain lazy and borderline negligent.

  • I was in a hit and run a few years ago and had partial info. I called GEICO (my insurance co) and they found the person that hit me immediately. I was on my bike when I was hit too. They had Erie Insurance and they admitted fault and Erie promised to pay out. 2 months later and still excuses for why I had not received a check and I got an attorney involved. I sued for $25,000 and won with one letter written by the attorney. Most of that went to the attorney and the plastic surgeon that partially removed the massive scars on my face, but I got some $$ too.

  • I drive in and out of the city every day to get to my place of employment. I applaud (and envy) people who can bike to work. I thinking biking is great for the environment and a healthy way to burn calories. However I wish the cyclists who complain about us in cars turn there rants on the 70% of the cyclist who do absolutely moronic moves in traffic and put themselves in harms way. I know it’s a matter of time I hit one because at least two mornings a week I come within inches of clocking one good for doing bone head moves. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a cyclist to ride the white line in traffic between stopped cars at a high rate of speed down 16th St weaving in and out where they can to get around cars to close to the curb lane or two close together in a merging situation. Also the cyclist who come up from behind on the right between me and the curb as I start my right turn. I look for pedestrians crossing the street not bikers two inches from my back door passing me and knocking my side mirror practically off from whatever bag they have over there shoulder.

  • There are a lot of bad cyclists in this area. Guess what? There’s also a lot of bad drivers and a lot of bad peds. Now guess which group causes the most damage in terms of repair costs,bodily harm and lives lost? Cars kill people,bikes and peds do not.

    • Cars kill people,bikes and peds do not.

      Right, but cyclists are daredevil freaks living on the margins of society–they shouldn’t even be out on the roads, which are for normal people. Whereas drivers are just plain folks, going about their normal business.

      Sure drivers killed 34,000 people last year, but each one was a regrettable tragedy for whom no one was responsible. Every time a cyclist makes a turn without using proper hand-signals, it’s a terrorist action in the ongoing War on Drivers…

  • Srsly people?

    Someone asks a question and folks feel the need to turn it into a bikes vs cars debate? Shame on you.

  • If anyone has information on the hit and run accident that occurred at 13th & Quincy on Friday night please contact the DC Police. The motorcyclist who was hit and dragged is a good friend of mine and is in serious condition in the ICU. He was struck by a car while at a stop and then dragged some 200 feet.

  • You have to be kidding me that the police can’t cross reference a plate and the vehicle registration database. That is insane! It should be instant.

  • Does anybody even know if DC collects information on the color of your car? I remember being surprised, as my mother had always told me the old wives tale of a red car costing more to insure, that my insurance company, and I think DC as well when I registered the car, did not ask me the color on any of the paperwork. So, does it even help to know the Volvo was black?

  • Yes, the VIN has info on the color of the car (as well as other identifying info), so even if u have two 2008 hondas with similiar plate numbers, the info on the color could pin it on the black car instead of the silver.

  • The DC MPD is terrible. I saw a shooting several weeks ago, called it in, left a message with all my contact information and never heard back. A guy with a gun, shooting at a car, in the middle of DC – no call. The police department is completely ridiculous.

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