Southern California law enforcement agencies are working to combat street takeovers by encouraging safer alternatives for racing enthusiasts.
Officials from the LAPD, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and other agencies recently held a press conference to issue a public service announcement urging racing enthusiasts to take their hobby off the streets to the safer, controlled environments of local racetracks.
Irwindale Speedway, located just northeast of Los Angeles, is one of the tracks open to the public where drivers can fulfill their need for speed. The weekly “Thursday Night Thunder” event allows people to bring their own cars to race down an 1/8-mile dragstrip or do donuts in the “burnout box.”
“You are welcome to come here and burn tires to your heart’s delight,” speedway representative Tim Huddleston said at the event. “We will cheer you on, we will celebrate you and we will keep you safe, and we will make you a hero.”
Law enforcement agencies are also working to increase penalties for those participating in street takeovers, and are in talks to pass laws with harsher punishments for organizers of the events and participants.
“Why can’t the City Council, why can’t the Board of Supervisors implement an ordinance, why can’t we pass a law in Sacramento that says if you organize a street takeover through social media, you could be held accountable if we have the evidence?” L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva laid out the situation.
“It’ll cost you $20 to show off your skills at the Irwindale Speedway. If you’re caught participating in a street takeover or racing, the cost of your car being impounded and the citation could cost you upwards of $3,000,” the sheriff said.
Police departments across the country have been struggling with a rise in illegal street racing since the pandemic began.
Villanueva blamed lockdowns for giving rise to the dangerous practice.
“Culture shifts over time. You have the pandemic, you have people that were bored, locked up at home for a long, long time.”
While officials have installed speed bumps and road blocks, and have even shut down streets popular with racers, no action has been able to effectively deter the events that can often be deadly.
Lori Argumendo with the nonprofit Street Racing Kills lost her niece Bethany in a crash at a 2019 takeover.
“No one should lose their life to something that is 100% preventable,” Argumendo said.