SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – The state Highway Patrol has created an investigative task force to more quickly track down leads in recent freeway shootings — after the eighth shooting in Southern California in two months.
The new unit will work with local law enforcement agencies as troopers also increase their patrols on the region's freeways, officials said. Four people have been killed in 11 freeway shootings this year.
"We're going to very aggressively, with our partners in law enforcement, move to try and find our suspect and take him into custody and hold him accountable for their senseless act," Assistant Chief Art Acevedo (search) told FOX News.
Even as they announced the stepped-up enforcement efforts Tuesday, officials released figures showing that despite media coverage in recent weeks, there have actually been two fewer freeway shootings this year than in the same period last year.
"We don't want the public to think there's an onslaught" of shootings, Acevedo said. "We are actually on pace to have fewer shootings this year, and remember, these shootings are taking place in three counties that are heavily traveled with high populations."
According to data released by authorities, there were 36 freeway shootings, with one person killed, in 2004. In 2003, there were 46 incidents and four fatalities.
The latest shooting came during the afternoon commute Monday on Highway 14 (search) in the Newhall Pass (search) area, when a bullet pierced a windshield of a sport utility vehicle. The male driver, the only one in the vehicle, was not injured.
The CHP also released details of a shooting early Saturday in which a 16-year-old driver and his 17-year-old passenger were targeted on Interstate 5 in the Sun Valley area when a sedan pulled alongside the teens' Toyota. The driver, hit three times, drove himself to a hospital and was expected to survive. The passenger was not injured. Authorities said the shooting may have been motivated by road rage.
In a separate incident, a 19-year-old man shot three times early Sunday while driving on Interstate 405 was taken to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. He was in stable condition and was expected to survive.
"For no apparent reason, a vehicle, possibly a dark-colored Honda or Nissan, containing four to five males with shaved heads pulled alongside of him on the freeway and started firing at his vehicle," Lt. John Del Vecchio told FOX News.
In the past five weeks, two men were killed in separate incidents on the Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles. Two others also recently were killed in freeway shootings in neighboring counties.
"It's very frustrating because something like that is hard to predict, when it might happen, where it might happen," Del Vecchio said.
Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said there's no obvious pattern to the crimes.
"The victims are black, they're Latino, they're white. They're spread over a large area," Bratton told FOX News.
The California Highway Patrol said there are some simple things drivers can do to avoid trouble.
"If you're getting shot at my feelings are get away from the situation ... the best thing I can think of is slow down and that person will probably maybe speed up and drive away — I don't see them wanting to stick around," Officer Brian De Nike told FOX News.
"You don't want to egg it on. You don't want to flip them off or make any gestures," De Nike said.
Marilyn Tuason, mother of victim Jake Tuason, 26, who was killed on March 12, told FOX News that she was not satisfied with the police response.
"They're not telling us that much. ... I think this is a random thing. He doesn't have any enemies. He doesn't go to that area often, maybe once or twice a year."
FOX News' Anita Vogel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.