Marion Bae, FISM News
Around 6:30 PM Sunday evening the familiar sounds of screeching tires and revving engines came from down the road. I went out on my balcony and joined a neighbor who was also looking on at the chaos unfolding at our intersection.
Crowds of pedestrians formed to watch, leaving their cars parked in the road. Those who wished to avoid the situation made u-turns and had to find alternative routes to their destinations. Smoke and the smell of burning rubber filled the air for over 15 minutes before the crowd finally dispersed.
This was the second Sunday in a row that street racers had blocked off an intersection next to what I had hoped would be a quiet, suburban apartment when I moved in four months ago.
What I was witnessing was a form of street racing known as a “street takeover,” in which an intersection is taken over by vehicles performing tricks such as burnouts or doughnuts.
Street racing and takeovers in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas has become increasingly popular after the pandemic lockdowns. The LA Times reported that street racing incidents had risen 27% in 2021, which correlates with the rise in overall crime in LA last year, including an approximate 12% increase in homicide.
The LAPD announced on Twitter in August that over 1,900 citations had been written, 433 vehicles impounded, and 437 arrests related to street racing and takeovers.
In 2021, there’s been over 2,000 traffic stops, nearly 1,900 citations written, 433 vehicles impounded, and 437 people arrested in connection with illegal street racing & takeovers. LAPD’s Street Racing Taskforce is committed to disrupting and abating this deadly activity. pic.twitter.com/PoxJqUnj8o
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) August 2, 2021
LA City Council Member Bob Blumenfield addressed this issue in January, promising $100,000 to fund police in their efforts to stop street racing in the West Valley, though LAPD Captain Andrew Neiman of the Valley Traffic Division says this won’t be enough.
“I have constituents who are often woken up in the middle of the night by a half dozen cars going three times the speed limit, screeching around turns in what were recently quiet neighborhoods. This isn’t just a quality-of-life issue. People are dying, and this is beyond unacceptable,” Blumenfield said. “We’ve seen reckless driving spike all across the city, and I’m not going to wait until someone else gets hurt or worse to do something in my district.”
Blumenfield’s statement on not waiting until someone gets hurt rings true, considering that many innocent people died in the last year due to speed racing.
In August, three people died and two were severely injured in a fiery car crash in Burbank. Two teenagers were arrested in the incident, suspected to have been racing when they collided with an innocent 3rd party.
In December a USC student was killed in a crosswalk by what police suspect was a speed racer.
Increased police funding to fight this crime is a start, but Neiman says that stricter legislation and punishment is needed to truly curb the trend.
“Illegal street racing and takeovers are at an all-time high in our city. In my 35-plus years with LAPD, I have never seen this level of blatant disregard for the safety of our fellow commuters,” Neiman said. “Sadly, current laws do not provide sufficient penalties to deter this lawlessness. Currently the most serious penalty is the impoundment of the violator’s car for 30-days, but that rarely occurs. The additional funding for enforcement will certainly help make a difference, but our community will need to lobby for stronger legislation.”
Strong legislation would need to be met with strong enforcement, but LA’s Democratic District Attorney George Gascon has come under fire increasingly in recent days due to his soft-on-crime policies. He is currently undergoing a second recall effort by his constituents.
For the time being, it seems like the streets of LA County will continue to be plagued by street racing, alongside other criminal activity, until stronger legislation and harsher sentences are put in place.