ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – It is something you might not think about unless it happens to you.
However, hit-and-run crashes in Rochester are something of a daily occurrence.
NewsCenter’s Caitlin Alexander set out to dig deeper into the issue after someone smashed into her vehicle and didn’t bother to leave a note this fall.
Chi Quach discovered damage to her brand new SUV in October when she arrived at work following a doctor’s appointment.
There was more than $2,500 in damage to the rear passenger-side door.
“I just say, ‘Oh my gosh.’ That’s it, and then I went straight back,” Quach said.
Security cameras at the clinic couldn’t pick up enough detail to catch the responsible vehicle.
Quach filed a police report and got in touch with her insurance.
“Certainly, it’s a daily occurrence where we’re taking hit-and-run type reports,” explained Captain John Sherwin with the Rochester Police Department.
Rochester police say between October 1st, 2017 and October 1st, 2018, there were 326 property damage hit and run reports.
Additionally, there were six hit-and-run cases that resulted in injuries.
Of those property damage incidents, more than 80 percent are now considered “inactive” cases.
Sherwin said these types of cases are very difficult to solve in the absence of clear video surveillance and witnesses.
“If it’s an accident that occurs in a parking lot on private property, you know, we just don’t have the resources to devote a lot of effort to that type of investigation,” he said.
These are only the cases that victims report to police. It stands to reason there are many that go unreported.
Every hit-and-run victim wants to know why someone struck their vehicle and didn’t own up to their mistake.
Minnesota state law is pretty clear about stopping after an accident. If the vehicle is unattended, the person must leave a note or notify the car’s owner or law enforcement.
“I’ve seen all kinds of reasons for why drivers leave scenes. Sometimes it may be because they’re unlicensed or uninsured, but other times, it may be because they’re a young driver and inexperienced or an older driver and confused,” Sherwin said.
Tom Wasmund, owner of Med-City Collision thinks that in addition to all the other reasons, a lack of accountability is a big piece of the puzzle.
“Just had a gentleman in this morning, got hit-and-run. He happened to see the guy, and the guy told him, ‘Insurance won’t pay for that anyway,’ and he left,” Wasmund said.
In his shop alone, Wasmund estimates his crew sees three hit-and-runs a week.
Depending on the crash, a bill could be thousands of dollars.
As Sherwin points out, there’s only so much drivers can do to protect themselves.
“It’s impractical to encase your car in rubber or build a fence around your car. So, anytime you go anywhere there’s a risk, but it’s all about minimizing your risk.”
He said that might mean parking further away from other cars when possible and being a good, defensive driver.
Community members can also be a good witness if they see someone make that wrong choice.
“There’s an idea for some people that they can get away with it, and so they try. But, again, they’re looking short-term not long-term. When you get caught, the repercussions will be far worse for you,” he warned.
RPD reports that a property damage hit-and-run could land an offender with a citation.
If someone is seriously hurt or killed, offenders will likely face a felony.
KTTC found that a quick internet search shows technology drivers can purchase that will record if someone strikes their car. There are several we found that cost less than $100.