With all the technology at our fingertips, you would think it would be easy to track down a hit-and-run driver after a fatal crash.
But apparently, it is not.
It’s been nearly three weeks since a driver struck and killed Linda Mensch, 70, in the crosswalk in front of the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Although three witnesses saw the driver get out of his van, police have the license plate number and name of the van’s owner, and a surveillance camera recorded the tragedy, no one is in custody.
Obviously, there are details about this hit-and-run that we don’t know and won’t know until the perpetrator is caught and charges are filed.
But think of all the sleepless nights Mensch’s relatives have endured since that horrible day.
And are we seeing more hit-and-run crashes on our streets?
I found several other fatalities that happened in August during a quick search online. Here’s a sampling:
On Aug. 5, Ashley Sanchez, a teenager, was killed in what police suspect was a carjacking attempt when an unidentified driver hit the car she was riding in;
On Aug. 14, Sophie Elizabeth Allen, a visitor from Orlando, Florida, was fatally struck when someone driving a BMWX3 blew through a stop sign. A friend, Nahiomy Alvarez, who was walking with Allen, suffered injuries.
And on Aug. 18, May Toy, president of Skinner Park Advisory Council, was fatally struck in the 1200 block of West Van Buren Street.
A week after the hit-and-run that took Mensch’s life, her daughter, Jessica Heyman, told the Chicago Sun-Times she had not received any updates from police. As is customary, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department would only say the investigation was “continuing,” and “no one is in custody.”
As a reporter, I’m used to hearing those empty words. But silence doesn’t work anymore. Not in this high-octane environment.
People want answers. It is no longer unusual to see fast cars roaring through a red light, putting the lives of pedestrians and other motorists at risk, and there is not a squad car in sight.
Tragically, victims like Mensch have become collateral damage in a dangerous game playing like a Fast & Furious video.
Only, these real-life drivers can’t handle a car any better than the juveniles shooting out of car windows.
Police have their hands full.
Still, victims of violent crimes—and a hit-and-run crash is a violent crime—deserve better.
These victims need someone to guide them through the darkest days of their lives. They need to know that police are beating the streets, trying to find the people responsible for their loved one’s death. They need that daily update because they are desperate to understand what’s happened to their lives.
And the public needs to know these criminals won’t escape justice.
Politicians spend a lot of time arguing about what it will take to keep at-risk teens from crossing from bad behavior into criminality.
But these leaders need to spend more resources providing emotional support for the victims of those crimes.
Yes. Victims of violent crimes can turn to the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Program, administered by the Illinois attorney general’s office, for financial help.
That program provides direct financial assistance (up to $27,000) to victims of violent crime who meet certain eligibility requirements.
Those requirements include: (a) “be a victim of a crime that happened in Illinois; (b) report the crime or file an Order of Protection; (c) cooperate with the police, courts, and the Crime Victims Compensation Program; (d), file the claim within 2 years of the crime; and (e) not be involved in illegal activity that caused the crime to happen.”
Victims of hit-and-run crashes also need reassurances that those who fled the scene won’t get lost in the crowd. If the department needs to hire civilians to make those calls, then so be it.
Victims need to hear that police are on the case.
Because after the RIP T-shirts are tucked away in a drawer and the memorials are taken down, the pain is forever there.
Call Crime Victims Assistance Line for more information: 1-800-228-3368 or go to: