New 'Medina Alert' to help catch hit-and-run suspects

5:24 PM, Feb 16, 2012   |    comments
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Jose Medina, 21, was only in his first week working as a valet outside of the Rockstar Lounge on East 9th Avenue and Lincoln Street when he was hit and killed by a truck in January 2011.

The driver, Norma Vera-Nolasco, fled the scene but was later arrested and convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to 12 years in prison because of a tip called in by a Metro Taxi driver.

"We can't bring Jose back but it was some closure for the family," Metro Taxi owner Robert McBride said.

Metro Taxi has teamed up with Denver Police to create the Taxis on Patrol program. Through the partnership, taxi drivers from several companies across the metro area act as an extra set of eyes and ears on the road, reporting anything illegal or suspicious to police.

"We're not crime fighters. This is just a way for taxi drivers to give back to the community," McBride said.

McBride came up with the idea and asked retired police officer Larry Stevenson for help to start the program.

"I've been a part of a delivery in the back seat of a taxi. I have physically seen an altercation in the street and had to call police. Often, in most municipalities there are more taxis on the street than police," McBride said.

Since its inception in January 2011, police have received around 1,000 tips. Seventy percent of those have resulted in investigations or arrests for everything from homicide, sexual assault, robbery, drunk drivers, domestic violence and hit-and-runs.

Denver Police say they responded to 6,656 hit-and-runs alone last year. They were excited to hear about a new addition to Taxis on Patrol.

On Thursday, Taxis on Patrol announced the start of the Medina Alert program. Similar to an Amber Alert, a Medina Alert will be issued by police when there is information about a suspect vehicle called in about a hit-and-run crash.

The information will run on 12 electronic billboards in the Denver area as well as the Colorado Department of Transportation's electronic billboards on some Colorado highways.

The Medina Alert program is a first of its kind in the country. Officials with Taxis on Patrol say they have already received inquiries and plan to help start the program in other municipalities like Arizona, South Africa and even Australia.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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