Hit-and-Run

Chicago Saw 37K Hit-and-Runs in 2021, But Just 306 Arrests. Why Do Police Solve So Few of These Crimes?

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As the alarming menace of hit-and-run crashes in Chicago grows, the number of these crimes that police actually solve remains shockingly low.

In 2021, Chicago saw a total of 37,226 hit-and-run crashes, an average of more than 100 per day that left 36 people dead and 4,807 injured, according to the city's traffic data.

Over that same year, data from the Chicago Police Department's own arrest portal, analyzed by NBC 5 Investigates, shows CPD made just 306 arrests on charges related to fleeing the scene of a crash.

Agata Jagielski is a member of a club that no one wants to join: people whose loved ones were killed or maimed by hit-and-run drivers in Chicago.

Jagielski's mother Teresa Jaworecka, 65, dreamed of returning to her native Poland and was saving up for that dream, cleaning houses by day and businesses at night, with plans to retire this year.

At around 10:45 p.m. on Sept. 24, Jaworecka was headed to her last cleaning job of the night, crossing the street in the 4900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue in Jefferson Park when she was hit by someone driving a tan-colored Jeep, which sped away after the crash.

"People have come forward saying that, you know, they were there and they were holding her hand and like brushing her hair and saying it's okay to let go," Jagielski said.

Jaworecka was taken to an area hospital where she was pronounced dead. Nearly five months later, the crime remains unsolved and Jagielski says that as she grieves the loss of her mother, she's also grown increasingly frustrated by both the pace of the Chicago Police Department's investigation and their lack of communication.

About two weeks after the crash, Jagielski said the detective leading the investigation went on medical leave for what would ultimately be about a month, and that the other officers who answered her calls each day repeatedly told her there were no updates in the case.  

When she asked CPD about surveillance footage, Jagielski said she was told the only images obtained by police were of poor quality due to weather.

"If I run a red light, it doesn't matter what kind of weather this is, I will get an HD video of me running that red light," she said.

Jagielski ultimately became so frustrated with Chicago police that she hired her own private investigator to canvass the area of the crash in November.

That investigator told her he found several homes with video doorbells and at least one business with cameras who said they had not been contacted by police. But by that time, it was too late: Jagielski said the footage had already been overwritten.

"The hardest thing is now I have to live with the fact that the person that struck my mom is just, you know, driving around there," Jagielski said. "Who knows if he may, he or she, may hit another person?"

The number of hit-and-run crashes in Chicago has skyrocketed over the past year, according to an NBC 5 Investigates’ analysis of the city’s own data that shows the past 12 months have seen the highest number of crashes, deaths and incapacitating injuries of the past four years. NBC 5's Phil Rogers reports.

Chicago police have refused to answer any questions about this case, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

On CPD's overall clearance rate for hit-and-runs, a spokesman said in a statement that the department "thoroughly investigates all crimes."

"Investigations into hit-and-run accidents can be lengthy due to evaluating and processing both physical and digital evidence, in addition to obtaining witness statements," CPD’s statement reads. "Further, many of these investigations rely on forensic evidence, which requires additional time to be analyzed as we seek justice for victims and their families."

But Jagielski said she believes police have not done everything in their power to solve this crime.  

"I understand this is Chicago and I understand there are many cases. But to me, this is my mom and if this were their mom, would they not want to catch this person? Would they not want justice for their families?" Jagielski said. "This could have been anybody's mom, this could have been anybody's daughter, son, you know, this could have been anybody. This, this was my mom unfortunately. And I just don't understand why they would not try."

Jagielski said that even though Chicago police have kept her in the dark, she will never give up.

"I am not going to stop. I don't care if it takes a year. I will keep calling, I will do everything I can to still keep my mom's memory fresh to everybody that's working on this," Jagielski said. "You never know, maybe the person that did this has some kind of a conscience and will come forward, even if it is six months later. You never know. But I will not let this down. I owe it to my mom. I owe it to my family, to get them justice, to get them peace. To get myself peace."

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