BARTOW, Fla. — Hit-and-runs continue to be a growing problem in Florida and in the Tampa Bay area. The question is, what is being done to stop the trend?
ABC Action News discovered troubling statistics when it comes to investigators not only solving the hit-and-run cases, but the state being able to find drivers guilty of the crime.
Statistics show 25 percent of crashes that happen in Florida, are hit-and-runs, where drivers decide running from the scene would be better than calling 911.
Victims are often left seriously hurt or even dead, especially if it’s a pedestrian hit-and-run case.
“I just want justice, that’s all, I just want justice for him,” said Janice Boyd, who is still struggling with the idea that her son was hit on a dark road and left in a ditch to die.
Janice’s son, Barry Powell, would have been 30 in December of 2017 if it weren’t for a driver hitting Barry on the side of the road and fleeing the crash site.
His family says Barry was walking along a dark highway in Bartow, trying to cool off from a fight he had just had with his sister. He never came home.
“Barry would give you the shirt off of his back,” Lonnie Cartwright, Barry’s step-father, said about Barry’s character.
Barry’s mother echoed the sentiment.
“He was happy go lucky, liked staying by himself, liked playing video games,” Janice said with tears in her eyes.
In November of 2017, Barry Powell became one of 100 pedestrians state wide that year to die on the side of a Florida road, alone.
ABC Action News discovered out of 98,000 hit-and-run crashes in the state in 2017, FHP worked about 24,000 of those scenes.
Yet, only one in eight drivers were cited for leaving the scene.
And at the end of the year, 690, or only 30 percent of those drivers cited, were actually found guilty of a hit-and-run crash.
Corporal James A. White Jr., with the Florida Highway Patrol, said once a driver leaves the scene, it becomes a criminal investigation and sometimes they are left with very little evidence to go on.
“Ultimately what would be better is for the people to stay on scene and provide their information,” White said.
In Barry’s case, only paint chips and a headlight were found near his body.
“That could be it, that could be all we have to go off of to get that make and model to get that case solved,” White said.
Time often is the number one culprit when it comes to piecing the missing puzzle pieces together.
“If we don’t get these drivers within a day or two the damage can be fixed (and) the evidence on the vehicle from striking the other vehicle or pedestrian can be washed away with simply cleaning the vehicle,” he said.
For Barry’s family, it’s been seven months of wondering who hit their son.
“I just want the person to come forward that hurt my son that's all,” Janice said.
Last year 134 families went through the same thing around the Tampa Bay Area, and yet to have answers.
Lonnie Cartwright, though, is bound and determined to find those answers, calling the Polk County Sheriff’s Office each day to get an update on the case.
“Why he did it, and why he didn’t stop and call 911 cause like I say if he would have stopped and called 911 he might have been hurt but he would have still been alive,” Cartwright said.
In 2017, Hillsborough led the Tampa Bay Area in high-and-run crashes, with more than 5,000 drivers leaving the scene. One pedestrian was hit and killed, according to the FLHSMV.
However, in Pinellas County last year, the county saw 12 pedestrians killed. FHP reports solving about 5,300 cases in the Tampa area in 2017.