Street racing soars after 'defund police' movement slashes traffic patrols across US

Street racing on the rise in Dallas amid COVID pandemic

Police ramp up efforts to curb street racing during stay-at-home order; Jeff Paul reports from Dallas.

Increased instances of illegal street racing have caused disturbances or even turned deadly across the U.S., as traffic patrols have been scaled back or officers are less likely to conduct investigative stops in the wake of the “defund the police” movement. 

One of the most recent attempts to crack down on the problem happened in Texas over the weekend, when at least 60 adults and seven juveniles were either arrested or cited in Fort Worth after police said scores showed up to participate in an “illegal reckless driving exhibition hosted by a local street racing group,” Fox 4 reported. At least 30 vehicles were towed from the scene. 

Meanwhile, two 22-year-old men were killed by street racers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Saturday afternoon. 

According to police, their vehicle was attempting to make a turn when a second and a third vehicle “racing at a high rate of speed” plowed into them at an intersection. A 37-year-old driver of one of the vehicles street-racing sustained injuries that were serious but not life-threatening, police said. 

He and the second driver, a 30-year-old man, were arrested.  

Just days earlier, a fiery crash in Burbank, California, left three dead, including 21-year-old Cerian Baker, the son of comedian and actor Tony Baker. The two others killed were 19-year-old Natale Maghaddam and 20-year-old Jaiden Johnson. Police said the trio were not involved in street racing. 

Three people were killed and at least two others were injured in a fiery multi-vehicle collision at Glenoaks Boulevard and Andover Drive in Burbank on Aug. 4, 2021. The violent crash caused one vehicle to be cut in half and which police were investigating as a possible hit and run or street-racing incident. 
(Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

Two other vehicles believed to have been racing at an accelerate speed struck their Volkswagen sedan, the Los Angeles Times reported. Celebrities including Viola Davis, David Allen Grier and Wanda Sykes offered condolences on social media. 

With movie franchises like the Fast and the Furious, street racing had already been increasing in popularity before pandemic-era lockdown orders cleared normal traffic off roadways. Drivers block roads and even interstates to keep police away and perform stunts, often captured on viral videos. 

A year after the defund the police movement gained momentum, law enforcement in some areas are hindered by measures restricting their ability to respond to street racing-related calls. And other agencies faced with an increased number of shootings, as well as staffing shortages amid a rise in officer resignations, prioritize other disturbance calls, leaving traffic violations to fall to the wayside. 

Now some jurisdictions are proposing different methods of combatting the issue on America’s roadways. 

In Aurora, Colorado, the city council unanimously passed an ordinance last week clearing the way for police to seize residents’ vehicles found to be associated with repeated street racing–related infractions, Sentinel Colorado reported. 

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    A car towed by Portland police in November 2020. (Photo: Portland Police Bureau) (Portland Police Bureau)

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    A car towed by Portland police in November 2020. (Photo: Portland Police Bureau) (Portland Police Bureau)

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    Burbank, CA – August 04: Part of a vehicle is taken away by a tow truck in Burbank. Three people were killed and at least two others were injured in a fiery multi-vehicle collision at Glenoaks Boulevard and Andover Drive in Burbank.  The violent crash caused one vehicle to be cut in half and which police were investigating as a possible hit and run or street-racing incident. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images) (Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

The measure permits courts to issue temporary restraining orders against car owners if their vehicles are found to be associated with offenses including vehicular eluding, obstructing a highway, reckless driving, engaging in a speed contest and trespassing. 

The move in Colorado comes after one of the most notorious incidents in March involved hundreds of street racers clogging a stretch of interstate in Aurora while they raced and cruised, as police warned other motorists to stay away amid reports of guns being brandished and fireworks going off.

Deaths related to street racing events haven’t always come in connection to the reckless driving itself. 

In early June, two teenagers – 19-year-old Vanessa Jensen and 17-year-old Nicholas Enger – were fatally struck by stray bullets about an hour apart while watching illegal, street racing events in Minneapolis. Minnesota State Patrol attempted to crack down on the problem later that month, stopping over a dozen drivers for speeds, citing four for traveling at 112, 112, 102 and 97 miles per hour, Fox 9 Minneapolis reported. 

In Portland, Oregon, business owners have written to the mayor and city commissioners asking them to take action against pervasive street racing in one industrial neighborhood that has left straightaways littered with alcohol containers and parking lots scarred by circular tire tracks. 

Georgia is among the states fighting back with new laws. In May, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill that mandates at least 10 days of jail time for all drag racing convictions. It also requires people convicted a third time within five years to forfeit their vehicles. 

The bill was named after Jaye Sanford, a 52-year-old mother of two who was driving home in suburban Atlanta on Nov. 21, 2020 when a man in a Dodge Challenger muscle car who was allegedly street racing crashed into her head-on, killing her.

In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in March signed into law a bill that allows state troopers to respond to incidents in cities. On New Year’s Eve, drivers blocked traffic on an interstate highway in Jackson for an hour while they spun out and did donuts, etching circles in the pavement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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