Community leaders are taking the fight against illegal road racing to the streets. Wednesday night, they met with business owners and residents of Mira Mesa where several racing events have recently taken place.
For all the spectacles of street racing, takeovers and side shows, they can come at great expense, including severe injuries and death. It is a combination of crowds and cars, in most cases dangerously too close together, spinning out of control in a blinding smoke screen.
“To understand the problem, you have to understand what is driving these events. What’s driving these events is 15 minutes of fame on social media," San Diego Police Department Lt. Dan Hall said.
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Many of these racing events are promoted on social media. Afterward, highlight reels appear online. Lt. Hall said he could keep a dozen officers busy just patrolling these illegal gatherings.
The street racing issue came to a head earlier this year in Mira Mesa when 200 cars came to the Target parking lot for a sideshow. Frustrated and angry customers lit up the complaint lines at City Hall which led to Wednesday night's town hall. Residents and business owners were in attendance, each with a different interest in these driving competitions.
"To me, the biggest deterrent is just don’t let them set up," property manager Chris Schlosser said.
Schlosser is a property manager for many shopping centers around town often sought after by the sideshow participants.
"They’re an economic impact to some of the tenants who can’t conduct business. and the damage to the parking lots," he said.
Dawn Lillian is a supporter of car stunts and racing, but not on public roads.
"Instead of just providing a deterrent, how are we promoting ways to do these activities safely to the younger population that is racing illegally?" Lillian asked.
City Attorney Mara Elliot joined the community meeting. Her office created a Street Racing Task Force. In 18 months, she says, the group reviewed 100 cases and filed charges in the majority of them. SDPD's Traffic Division has also worked on better enforcement strategies.
"Once you remove the car, their ability to conduct these types of events game over," Lt. Hall said.
Police say there is more going on here than meets the eye, including drug trafficking and the sale of weapons.
At no level of participation are you free of potential criminal charges. Even spectators within 200 feet of it could face criminal charges.
Police want anyone who sees street racing to call 911 and record it on their phone, but only if they can do so safely.
Starting in 2025, illegal street racers face a six-month driver’s license suspension if they're found guilty.