Police departments across the country are seeing an increase in dangerous — and sometimes deadly — street racing after the “defund the police” movement has led to traffic patrol cuts and fewer investigative traffic stops.
Drag-racing incidents have gained media attention across the country.
A recent crackdown on street racing occurred in Fort Worth, Texas, with the arrest of at least 60 adults and seven juveniles after the group showed up to an illegal “reckless driving exhibition hosted by a local street racing group,” Fox 4 reported. Thirty vehicles were towed from the scene.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, two 22-year-old men were killed by street racers as their vehicle was turning at an intersection. According to police, the racing cars collided with them, killing them and leaving the 37-year-old perpetrator with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
A similar accident occurred in Burbank, California, when three young individuals who were not participating in the street racing, including the 21-year-old son of comedian Tony Baker, were killed in a fiery crash after colliding with racing drivers. Police are currently investigating the crash as a possible hit-and-run; so far, no arrests have been made.
The Burbank Police Department released a statement that read: “The Department will continue to conduct targeted enforcement operations as it relates to speeding, reckless driving, exhibition of speed, and/or illegal street racing. The Department will also continue to educate the Community on the dangers of such reckless acts through our social media platforms and direct contact with Community Members.”
Street racing has been on the rise after pandemic lockdowns emptied streets. Drivers take advantage of the empty roads to form road blocks on interstates and other roads to keep police away.
Thanks to the movement to defund the police, departments are struggling to respond to the deadly phenomenon. Agencies also have their hands full with increased shootings, combined with staffing shortages and sometimes budget cuts. As a result, traffic violations are often ignored or not effectively dealt with.
However, some departments have taken steps to address the problem.
The Aurora, Colorado, City Council recently passed a law allowing the police to seize vehicles involved in repeated street-racing incidents as a way to combat the rise in the dangerous pastime. The measure allows courts to issue restraining orders against car owners who are involved in several different traffic violations, including “engaging in a speed contest.”
The move came after an incident in which hundreds of street racers sped down a stretch of interstate, with gunshots and fireworks also present.
Portland, Oregon, business owners have written to the mayor about vandalism as a result of street racing, and in Georgia, lawmakers have proposed a bill to mandate a 10-day jail sentence for those convicted of drag racing.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves also responded by passing a law that allows state troopers to respond to racing incidents in cities.