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Phoenix Police Describe Car-Show Behavior As 'Recipe For Disaster'

Safety concerns, taxpayer costs and complaints from residents and business owners have Phoenix leaders taking a closer look at car shows held along Central Avenue.

It’s not a sound you expect to hear inside Phoenix City Hall, but squealing tires filled the room during last Wednesday’s public-safety subcommittee meeting.

Burnouts, caught on video, played on a big screen. According to a city report, last April’s Central Avenue Car Show led to street damage that totaled approximately $2,225. 

Assistant Police Chief Harry Markley said when the event, held on private property at Park Central Mall, spills onto Central Avenue it becomes potentially dangerous. 

“Tires are spinning in excess of 100 miles per hour with pedestrians 3 feet away,” he said. “I mean it’s a recipe for the city for disaster.”  

Representatives from the Police Department met with the event producer to suggest fencing and barricades for the next show. They told council members that didn’t happen, but the producer did hire more off-duty officers. Still, police determined it wasn’t enough and the department deployed 35 officers, who worked 180 hours at a cost of $14,716. 

Margaret Dietrich with the Midtown Neighborhood Association told council members she doesn’t blame the event producer. “It’s the hooligans who have decided to piggyback on this thing for the last two times,” she said.

While the events annoy some residents, she said businesses pay a financial price, “They come in there, they spend the whole day there. They do not shop in those restaurants, and the businesses have been closing every time it happens for years because their own customers cannot get in there.” 

“It’s highlighting our Central Avenue, and it’s not damaging anything around us, if it’s just cruising, but when it becomes a public-safety issue, then it hurts us,” said Councilwoman Laura Pastor. “Burnouts are definitely unacceptable. It’s damaging to our roads, costs us a lot more money.”

She wrapped up the discussion by saying the city will try to work with business owners, residents and producers from all car shows to find solutions. If that’s not possible, Pastor admitted the city might have to shut down the events.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.