By now, many, if not most, San Diegans have become familiar with illegal street takeovers around the county, the sounds of squealing tires and smoke filling the air, often attended by dozens, sometimes of hundreds of onlookers.
What's not so well known is the fact that the drivers who participate in the takeovers can have their cars seized by San Diego police. In fact, to date this year, SDPD has seized 34 cars, with affidavits filed for the seizure of 19 others.
"These affidavits were filed in direct response to street racing's stunt driving, and intersection takeovers," San Diego police Lt. Adam Sharki told NBC 7 on Wednesday. "These affidavits were filed as a result of investigations after these events took place and vehicles were identified due to investigations. This is in addition to vehicles that were stopped at the scene/leaving the scene and cited for 23109 or 23103 (street racing or reckless driving) and impounded pursuant to those sections."
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Sharki said investigators have identified 172 "people/vehicles" involved in incidents this year "and we are working to hold every single one accountable."
The crackdown began in December of last year, Sharki told NBC 7, and in that month, 20 affidavits were submitted, resulting in the seizure and impounding of an additional 15 cars.
The street takeovers are often publicized in advance on social media, resulting in throngs of people standing around watching, with some having to dodge cars doing donuts at the last minute. At one such event last month in Mission Valley, a spectator was hit by a car.
The intersection of Camino de la Reina and Hotel Circle became a dangerous spectacle at about 7:15 p.m. on May 29, when at least 50 vehicles blocked the intersection. Video captured at least one car doing stunts in the middle of the street as onlookers surrounded the area, watching as tires screeched.
Police said at least one spectator at that intersection was hit by a car. The individual got up and ran off, so the severity of their injuries was unclear.
Another incident in April took place at the foot of Broadway, where it intersects with the Pacific Coast Highway, which was also the site of a similar incident last July. According to Bianka Fimbres, who shot video of the takeover and shared it with NBC 7, the incident lasted at least 20 minutes she was aware of prior to harbor police officers arriving at the scene.
On the night of June 5, a dog scared by a takeover at 30th Street and Madison Avenue in North Park ran onto Interstate 805 and was killed by a car, its North Park owner said. Video taken by a neighbor showed hundreds of people standing around the intersection. Some people stood inside the circling cars. with at least one person setting off fireworks.
Both drivers and spectators and spectators at takeovers can be criminally charged.
"Being a spectator [at such an event] is a misdemeanor under the municipal code," Sharki told NBC 7 in April via email, adding that people who do so can get up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000, as can the owners or operators of the vehicles involved.
Sharki said on Wednesday that the takeover seizure program is "part of the larger strategy to prevent, mitigate, and respond to these events." He added that there are other affidavits/seizures pending.