At least nine cases of hit-and-run have been reported in PCC parking lots since the beginning of the fall 2015 semester, according to Campus Police blotters, although it is likely that there have been many more of such incidents that have gone unreported.
The first two weeks of school are typically when most hit-and-runs occur, after which students tend to become more acquainted and “familiarized with the traffic in the parking structures, thus lowering [the frequency of] these types of incidents,” said Steven Matchan, Interim Chief and Director of PCC Police and Safety Services.
Such was the case for Kimseang Chea, who has already been rendered a victim of hit-and-run twice by the third week of school this semester. These incidents left a dent and scraped a significant portion of paint off his car. He was unable to claim insurance as he did not have any information about who the culprit was, and the car remains unrepaired to this date. Judging from hearsay, he didn’t file a report with Campus Police because he did not believe that it would help matters.
“I don’t feel okay at all,” Chea said. “The car is not new, but you just park your car and someone hits you…”
How does Campus Police handle hit-and-run reports?
“We will gather and document the victim’s name, vehicle information, insurance information and the location of the vehicle when it was struck,” Matchan said. “We will ensure this information is documented in the dispatch log and review video of the area. If we are unable to identify a suspect and if there is no video, we will [still] document that information in the dispatch log.”
If information about the suspect is provided when the report is filed or if a suspect is found via investigation, Matchan added that video footage from surveillance cameras in the area would be reviewed, saved as evidence and shown to the victim.
“Once we have identified a suspect, we will complete a report and pursue a criminal filing,” he said. Whether a victim is allowed to view video footage of the hit-and-run is subject to video availability.
Penalties for hit-and-run culprits may include receiving a misdemeanor citation, paying fines, paying for the victim’s damages, and in more severe cases, going to court.
Khuong Nguyen had his car hit twice in Parking Lot 5 earlier this spring in another case of hit-and-run. The car, which he had owned for less than a year, was hit once in the “front of the driver’s side” and once in the “rear of the passenger’s side.” A large area of one of the back wheels was also damaged. Although he did not report the case to Campus Police as he was in a rush to attend an appointment, Nguyen believes that they would have solved the case because they have access to security camera footage in the parking structures.
Given the prevalence of hit-and-runs at PCC and the ramifications it can have on the victims, the Campus Police has implemented a number of measures over the years in an attempt to curb and reduce the occurrences of hit-and-runs.
“In the past, we have had parking spaces re-measured and striped so vehicles have more room to maneuver around the corners,” Matchan said. “We [also] have cadets patrol the parking structure to ensure vehicles are parked within parking stalls.” New and continuing students are also informed on Welcome Day to get themselves familiarized with parking on campus. There are five student parking areas in total, including a four-level parking structure on Bonnie Avenue and a five-level parking structure on Del Mar Blvd.
Matchan urged students to be more alert when driving in and around the school. “When you park your vehicle, ensure [that] you park your vehicle within the parking space lines and fully within the parking space,” he advised. Students who believe that their vehicles have been struck in a hit-and-run should contact Campus Police immediately and not move their vehicles.
Witnesses of hit-and-runs are also advised to record the suspect vehicle’s license plate number and try to observe the direction in which it travels after hitting the victim’s vehicle when it is safe to do so. They should not approach the suspect vehicle.
“If you strike a vehicle, do not flee. It only makes matters more stressful for you,” Matchan said. Perpetrators should leave a note with their name, vehicle license plate, insurance policy information and phone number on the windshield of the vehicle they hit.
The Campus Police office is located in room B210. Campus Police can also be contacted via phone at (626) 585-7484.