SPOKANE, Wash. -- The number of hit and runs in Spokane has gone up every year since 2014.
“People don't realize the more collisions we have, the more your insurance rates go up. It's affected by how many collisions and especially injury collisions in a community like this," said Sgt. John Griffin with the Spokane Police Department Traffic Unit.
According to police, there were 2,490 hit and runs in 2014, 2,741 in 2015, 2,805 in 2016 and 3,008 in 2017. So far in 2018, there have been 277. Police could not give an exact break down of what was hit, but it is a combination of property, vehicles and pedestrians. Each year, the number goes up but why? Spokane Police believe it is directly related to budget and staffing cuts in the traffic unit over the years.
“It goes directly to the number of people we have out doing traffic enforcement, I don't remember it being that high in years past when we've had a lot of officers out there doing traffic enforcement," Griffin said.
The traffic unit used to have 16 officers plus eight more working nights. Now, they have just six.
"The more traffic enforcement we have the more people focused on taking impaired drivers off the road, the lower number of hit and run collisions we have," Griffin explained.
There are two collision investigators with the Major Crimes Unit who investigate serious injuries and fatalities. Each investigator is typically working 15 to 20 cases at a once, which does not leave a lot of time to investigate less serious crashes.
Thanks to a grant, the traffic unit added two DUI enforcement officers in October. SPD leaders think that will make a big dent in the number of hit and runs because impaired drivers are more likely to crash.
If you are involved in a hit and run, snap a photo of the driver of the other car and their license plate. If you witness a crash but cannot stay to wait for police, write down your information and give it to the driver involved so police can contact you later. If you cause an accident, police say taking off will only get you into more trouble.
"You would get in more trouble because you're adding an additional charge, if somebody's injured it could be a felony, if it's just property damage then you're looking at an additional misdemeanor charge which carries more penalties, more time in jail," Griffin explained.