Minneapolis police aren't following up on accidents if no one is badly hurt or killed.
Joel Waldfogel called Minneapolis police last week to see whether they had any leads on the driver who ran a stop sign, crashed into his daughter's car and drove away.
Instead, he was told there would be no investigation.
Because of staff cuts, Minneapolis police no longer routinely investigate hit-and-runs if no one is injured. So even though Waldfogel's daughter got the other car's license plate, all the police will do is send a letter to the owner of the vehicle.
The Minneapolis police website says only hit-and-runs that involve "serious injuries or fatalities" will be probed. The Accident Investigation Section has dropped from seven investigators to two in recent years, said spokesman Sgt. Steve McCarty, and the police "don't have the manpower" to investigate every hit-and-run.
The policy appears to be unique among large agencies in the Twin Cities -- sheriffs' representatives in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, St. Paul and Bloomington police and the State Patrol routinely investigate hit-and-runs, with or without injuries.
Of the nearly 1,000 reported hit-and-runs in the past 12 months in the city, 700 didn't result in injuries. There were also about 1,800 reports of damage to parked cars and other non-vehicle property by motorists who drove away.
For Joel Waldfogel, however, the difference between a hit-and-run with injuries and one without is just "dumb luck."
"Especially in light of the recent Amy Senser case, turning a blind eye to hit-and-run driving seems wrong," he said.
"If the law is meant to deter bad behavior, then I would have expected the police to pursue hit-and-run drivers, regardless of whether, by chance, their bad behavior did not result in an injury."
The Senser case, which involved a fatality, was investigated by the State Patrol, but the Minneapolis police have had a number of high-profile hit-and-run investigations. On Monday, police asked for the public's aid to help track down the driver who hit Urban Bean barista Matt Call while he was getting into his car in June and left him with broken legs. Last November, a pickup hit and killed 61-year-old Thomas Malloy as he rode his bike. The suspected driver, Wesley Gubbin, later turned himself in and was charged with criminal vehicular homicide. His trial begins Aug. 6.
On July 16, Hannah Waldfogel, 18, was on her way to work shortly before 1 p.m. when she drove through the intersection at Fremont Avenue S. and Summit Avenue in the Lowry Hill neighborhood. A young man in a black Acura sedan ignored a stop sign and broadsided her Honda Accord, causing her to run into a hydrant.
She said that when she got out of her car to see if the other driver was injured, he got out of his car to inspect it, yelled at her and took off. She got the other car's license plate number and gave it to an officer when he arrived about an hour later.
"It definitely messed with my head," she said. "I don't trust people as much anymore."
In the report on the accident, the officer included the name of the owner of the suspected hit-and-run vehicle -- someone who lives only a few blocks away -- and recommended the case for further investigation. But McCarty said it's up to the sergeant overseeing the accident investigation section to decide whether to do so.
The accident left Hannah Waldfogel's Honda with damage to both driver's-side doors, which her family found out later would cost about $10,000 to repair. The car is unusable. She said the other car appeared to be undamaged.
"It's kind of upsetting that they know who did it," Hannah Waldfogel said.
Officials with other police and sheriff's departments in the area, as well as the State Patrol, said they follow up on hit-and-run incidents, regardless of whether there's an injury. Each said they would definitely follow up if the driver could provide a license plate number.
"We still investigate ... especially if there's evidence at the scene," said Sgt. Paul Paulos, a St. Paul police spokesman.
Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Rick Hart said they prioritize cases, with hit-and-run incidents involving injuries taking precedence, but they follow up on all cases to the extent that they have witnesses and evidence.
Masako Hirsch • 612-673-4263