Frustrated by an increase in hit-and-run accidents in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles police launched an aggressive crackdown on motorists without up-to-date licenses and registrations, arresting 110 people and impounding 161 cars during a daylong sweep.
Nearly 50 officers patrolled North Hills, Pacoima, Arleta and Panorama City on Sunday in an attempt to reduce the number of unregistered vehicles and illegal motorists in the area with the Valley's highest concentration of hit-and-run accidents, police spokesman Dennis Zine said.
According to Zine, a large proportion of the 9,000 hit-and-run accidents reported throughout the Valley last year involved drivers without licenses.
"A great number of those people have suspended or revoked licenses, don't have licenses, or don't know how to drive," Zine said, adding that many scofflaws also sit behind the wheels of cars with outdated registrations.
During Sunday's sweep, dubbed Operation Area License Enforcement Registration Teams (ALERT), motorists stopped for traffic violations were asked to produce a valid driver's license and proof of car registration. While officers routinely require such documentation, Zine said those assigned to the sweep made a point of actually arresting motorists who could not comply and impounding their cars if the registration had gone unrenewed for more than a year.
Although police have directed several similar sweeps over the last two years, Operation ALERT marked the first time that police took the added step of making the arrests, in an effort to stiffen the deterrent to illegal driving.
"The previous task forces involved impounding vehicles, but that wasn't working" as an effective deterrent, despite a recent sweep that netted about 500 automobiles, Zine said. "We've stepped up our enforcement by not only taking the car but taking the body."
The operation Sunday lasted from 11 a.m. till 7 p.m., with officers hauling illegal drivers to a command post set up on Osborne Street in Arleta.
By midafternoon, about 50 motorists had already been arrested, including one believed to be driving drunk. Several also had outstanding arrest warrants, mostly for previous traffic violations, Zine said.
Motorists were booked at the command post and transferred to the Van Nuys jail, where they faced bail of at least $100 in addition to impound fees. Some scofflaws had fines totaling in the thousands of dollars, Zine said.