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Las Vegas police don't respond to all hit-and-run crashes

Las Vegas police vehicle involved in crash in the northwest
Posted at 2:00 PM, Feb 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 09:01:31-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Las Vegas victims in hit-and-run crashes often face an extra layer of frustration because the city's police department does not go to the crash scene unless there's an injury.

Even though leaving the scene of a crash is a crime, as 13 Investigates Anchor Tricia Kean reports, it's often on you to initiate the investigation.

"I was actually heading to church," said Cesar Cruz, recalling the moment when another driver hit him while he was crossing Vegas Drive at Rancho Drive last month.

"When I turned around and kind of came to, I turned around to see if the vehicle was still there and the vehicle spun out and took off," he said.

His car came to a stop in a 7-Eleven parking lot, so he wasn't blocking traffic. Unfortunately, the other driver did not stop to provide their information.

So Cruz says he called Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

"They just told me go ahead and contact [my] insurance company," said Cruz. "We're not gonna come out for this."

"I was just frustrated," he added.

Cruz couldn't believe it. 13 Investigates reached out to LVMPD and his story is true.

"We have to respond to a lot of calls. We have to help a lot of people," said LVMPD Detective Craig O'Neill.

"We'd like to be there for each and everyone, but sometimes that just isn't physically possible."

About 85 traffic officers patrol Las Vegas roads at a given time. Last year, they responded to about 22,000 crashes in the Las Vegas area.

So the department's policy after a crash is: if no one is hurt and you're able to safely move your car out of traffic, LVMPD will not come to the scene.

"If somebody for some reason doesn't feel comfortable, or the circumstances are such that the other driver is intoxicated or impaired in some way, obviously we want to respond to that," said Det. O'Neill.

In a hit-and-run crash, Las Vegas police encourage drivers to file a report known as a "citizens complaint of accident" at the police station.

Nevada Division of Insurance Deputy Commissioner Dave Cassetty says that advice is especially true if the crash is a hit-and-run.

"That is a crime and should be reported," Cassetty said.

"That will give you at least a case number and things that you can provide for your insurance company," he explained.

Cassetty says it's also important to take pictures of all damaged vehicles, license plates, other property damage, plus pictures of landmarks and street signs where the accident happened.

A free app called WreckCheck can help, he says, which is available in the Apple App Store and in Google Play.

"It will sort of walk you through steps of information that's good to gather. You can load all the information into that program," said Cassetty.

If the other driver does stay on the scene, the Division of Insurance says beware of any driver who says they don't want their insurance company involved.

"Get their insurance information anyway. Even if you're not going to submit a claim to it," said Cassetty.

"Make sure that they have it and you know what it is. So in the event you can't work out the issue with them, you do have recourse."

As for Cruz, he'll have to pay about $2,000 out of pocket to fix his car. He says he is just happy he was by himself when it happened and that it could have been worse.

"Thank God my wife and my child weren't in the car. On a normal Sunday I would come home, pick up my daughter and take her to church with me," he said.

It's worth noting, LVMPD also doesn't respond to crashes in a parking lot.

The rules of the road don't apply since parking lots are considered private property, so officers don't have the authority to issue tickets.

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