Chicago Police Are Far More Likely to Stop Investigating a Hit-and-Run Than to Solve It, Records Show – NBC Chicago
Chicago police are far more likely to stop investigating a hit-and-run crash altogether than they are to solve it, records show – leaving victims in the dark even in cases with seemingly obvious clues.
In the case of one crash that left a couple severely injured, Chicago police suspended their investigation despite several solid leads – and without even telling the victims.
At around 10 pm on Thanksgiving night 2019, Al and Colleen Carro were driving down Irving Park Road near O’Hare Airport when they were hit by a car that ran a red light at Seymour Avenue.
“I didn’t see what hit us. I didn’t even know what happened,” Al Carro recalled. “All I remember is the fireman waking me up and telling me to turn my head because he had to cut us out of the car.”
Surveillance video of the crash obtained by NBC 5 Investigates shows a ghostly figure emerge from the second car, walk past the Carros and into the night – leaving the car behind.
“I can’t believe with the car, they don’t go pick somebody up. They have the car!” Al Carro said.
On the night of the accident, Chicago police filled out a crash report that identified the two owners of the other car. NBC 5 is not naming the owners because they have not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
Records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show that one month after the crash, one of the owners was arrested after failing to show up in court on an unrelated traffic ticket. The arrest report shows Chicago police did take her cell phone as evidence, but for some reason it took them two months to request a warrant to search that device – a request from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office denied.
Emails obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show police also asked for assistance from federal immigration officials, who notified them when the second owner of the car booked a flight to Mexico. CPD planned to be at Midway International Airport to stop the owner before he could board the plane. But still, two and a half years later, no arrest.
“It appears they’ve had multiple opportunities to catch the person who did this to us, but they’ve done absolutely nothing,” Colleen Carro said.
Why do Chicago police solve so few hit-and-runs, even in cases where they are given overwhelming amounts of evidence? NBC 5 Investigates’ Phil Rogers reports.
The Carros – who each spent more than a month hospitalized due to the severity of their injuries – said police told them as recently as last fall that investigators were still awaiting results of DNA analysis from the Illinois State Police.
But NBC 5 Investigates found that CPD already had the final report in hand months before, indicating the test was inconclusive.
The couple said police wouldn’t let them see the video of the crash and hadn’t shared with them these details on their case. And they didn’t know until NBC 5 Investigates told them that CPD had suspended the investigation into the crash, less than six months after it occurred.
“Every time there’s an accident, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the person who hit us,” Colleen Carro said. “They could have killed someone else by now.”
Records show the Carros are far from alone.
NBC 5 Investigates filed a public records request asking the Chicago Police Department for the status of every investigation into the city’s most serious hit-and-run crashes – those that caused deaths or debilitating injuries – in the last 10-plus years.
The data shows that CPD has suspended or is no longer actively investigating roughly four out of every five of the city’s most serious unsolved hit-and-runs.
Chicago police classify a case as “suspended” when they believe “all investigative avenues” have been “fully pursued” and the “case cannot proceed further.” They also table investigations without an arrest when “circumstances beyond law enforcement control preclude charging,” according to CPD.
Of the most serious hit-and-runs from 2015 through this year, Chicago police have made arrests in 9.4% of cases – but stopped actively investigating 83.9% of those crashes.
Compare that to the New York Police Department, which has solved 34.7% of serious hit-and-runs over the same time period, while suspending less than a quarter of its investigations.
Surprisingly, it’s not just older cases that CPD is tabling: Chicago police have already stopped investigating 85.9% of the serious and fatal hit-and-runs that occurred last year alone, while making arrests in just 2.3% of cases. In 2021, the NYPD made arrests in 25.8% of their most serious cases – a rate 10 times that of Chicago police.
Chicago police have refused repeated requests for an interview on the crash that injured the Carros, the rate at which CPD suspends investigations and their low clearance rate on hit-and-runs in general.