As summer approaches, law enforcement in Minnesota are intensifying their efforts to combat street racing and dangerous stunt driving, which have become increasingly common, particularly in the Twin Cities metro area.
Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) Colonel Matt Langer, accompanied by representatives from multiple local agencies, emphasized in a press conference that individuals involved in promoting or participating in street races will face significant consequences beyond just receiving a ticket.
“Whether it is a promoter, a participant or an attendee, all are complicit in this illegal activity and will be held accountable. And that accountability is not just maybe going to be a citation. You could find yourself going to jail for second-degree riot,” Langer said, according to the Star Tribune.
According to police, the street racing trend grew in popularity during the pandemic.
Court documents highlight that “intersection takeovers” draw crowds of hundreds of people and obstruct traffic while vehicles perform dangerous maneuvers like donuts and spinouts in front of spectators.
The crimes have not only caused extensive and costly road damage, but have also put bystanders’ lives at risk. Tragically, there have been cases where spectators have been struck by cars or law-abiding drivers have been killed. For example, Tayler Nicole Garza and Dalton Lee Ford, both 22, were killed in the St. Paul suburb of Burnsville when a driver racing his sister crashed into their SUV. Stray bullets claimed the lives of teenagers Vanessa Jensen and Nicholas Enger while they attended one of these events. Additionally, three teenagers were injured when a driver performing burnouts in downtown Minneapolis crashed into them.
Langer, joined by representatives from the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, the Fridley Police Department, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, emphasized the need for collaborative efforts among law enforcement agencies to ensure street safety and called for a multi-pronged approach to target wrongdoers.
However, he acknowledged the evolving nature of street racing, which requires corresponding updates in legislation.
“The type of driving conduct that’s related to some of the street racing … is not something we’ve seen before. And so the law is catching up. It’s not as simple as two vehicles pull up to a stop sign, challenge each other and just race for a quarter-mile. We’re seeing organized groups come together with the intention of causing problems and causing mayhem,” Langer said.
The MSP said it plans to use both land and air patrols to combat street takeovers and make arrests. Indeed, patrol helicopters play a vital role in assisting law enforcement in apprehending street racers without engaging in dangerous pursuits. Equipped with high-definition cameras, some helicopters can record infrared videos at night, helping to pinpoint the location of drivers. While it may take up to 15 minutes for the helicopters to take flight after a request, they are frequently already airborne due to increased police aerial presence.
Data provided by the MSP indicates that between April and December 2022, nearly 2,000 stops and 167 arrests were made in connection with street racing. Some of these stops followed a tumultuous Fourth of July weekend when individuals in Minneapolis shot fireworks at pedestrians and other vehicles.
Additionally, the State Patrol’s HEAT program has been successful in targeted enforcement. Originally scheduled to end last August, the program was extended through the rest of 2022 and then restarted in April 2023. Data reveals that between February and December last year, the program resulted in over 21,000 speeding contacts and more than 300 arrests.
Minneapolis Deputy Chief of Patrol Erick Fors emphasized that this issue affects cities statewide and requires multiple jurisdictions to work together.
Fors stated: “These events created dangerous environments that result in additional violent criminal activity. This is an issue that affects many different cities and jurisdictions and one that requires a coordinated partnership and approach.”