Founders of a San Diego-based car enthusiasts group say their laid-back "park and chills" are drawing the same attention from local authorities as illegal street racing, sideshows and takeovers.
"We’re all being lumped under one blanket and we happen to be the sitting ducks,“ Murdr Meets co-founder Jack Rankin said.
His group brings together sometimes more than 1,000 car lovers to parking lots across Southern California for meet ups and nothing more.
"We’re not here to post stuff that creates an illegal environment for people. We’re not trying to break any laws. We are just trying to have a friendly experience," Rankin said.
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Law enforcement agencies across the state, including the San Diego Police Department, say they're seeing an increase in illegal street racing. That keeps the San Diego Street Racing Task Force created by City Attorney Mara Elliot nearly two years ago busy, according to SDPD traffic division Lt. Dan Hall, who denies his officers are coming down on meet-up groups unfairly.
“Our enforcement style is consistent," Lt. Hall said. "The takeovers we deal with, or the sideshows or the park and chills, we are looking for the illegal modifications. We are looking for the reckless behavior and we are conducting appropriate enforcement."
Rankin compares the crackdown on so-called park and chills, or parking lot meet-ups, to the ban on lowrider cruising in National City that lasted 30 years.
"Now the gauntlet is coming down on us using the same verbal tactics. They are regurgitating the same nonsense," Rankin said.
Hall said the intent of park and chills may not necessarily be shared among all their participants. So when groups of cars are holding such events in large parking lots, they can’t be ignored.
"The issue is the mode upon which you are getting there. The issue is the conduct once you’re there with illegally-modified vehicles and the result it's having on streets, freeways and businesses."
Tire marks in a Mission Valley parking lot illustrate what Hall and the task force are trying to prevent. Rankin said the burnouts happened the day after a scheduled meet in the lot, which was shut down by police.
“It sucks that they shut down the car meet but they didn’t come here to shut down this," Rankin said.
The Murdr Meets car group organized a meet-up in Poway with more than 200 cars and motorcycles. Attendees said three sheriff’s deputies were keeping an eye on it and there were no problems.
Hall said street repairs following burnouts and sideshows can cost taxpayers around $10,000 to repair.