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Tougher Law Or A Place To Race? How Should Phoenix Handle Street Racing?

Phoenix police could get help from state lawmakers to put the brakes on street racing. But the idea isn’t getting the green light from everyone.

In May 2019, the Maryvale-Estrella Mountain Precinct reported regular complaints from residents and business owners about vehicle stunts and street racing that attracted crowds  in their neighborhoods. 

After meeting with business owners and community members, officers determined the activities were dangerous with crowds sometimes reaching 300-500 people. In November 2019, the department formed a task force and since then, Assistant Chief Sandra Renteria said, they have issued more than 1,200 citations, including over 80 for reckless driving.

She recently updated the public safety subcommittee on the situation. She told council members the department worked with businesses for authority to arrest and move racers off private property.  

“The racers at that point began to not use the parking lots as much and still continued their street racings within the intersections, taking over streets, doing burnouts, drag racings and overall reckless driving,” she said.

The subcommittee also received information about a bill introduced at the legislature aimed at street racing. Sen. Paul Boyer (R-20) is sponsoring SB 1659because he says racing is becoming more common and more violent. The bill calls for a $1,000 fine and impounding the vehicle.

“There is a danger to the officers who are shot at trying to break it up, to spectators who are in harm’s way, and to the general public who has to avoid gunshots, fireworks, and cars careening out of control,” Boyer said in a prepared statement.

Councilwoman Laura Pastor applauded  the bill: “Our office has received numerous complaints from constituents and police officers have expressed the need for additional tools to combat the issue.”

But two council members on the city’s public safety subcommittee —Carlos Garcia and Betty Guardado — expressed concerns.

“I just  want to make sure we don't only address this by enforcement.” Garcia said “It’s a current fad. We saw cruising in the past in our communities, we’ve seen different fads. This is a combination of kind of cruising and party crews coming together and so I just want to make sure we don’t just criminalize it and then allow these laws or enforcement to go beyond and past and hurt the communities more than helping.”

Guardado said the solution isn’t going to come from the police department or the city council.

“I don’t think it’s about criminalizing people for doing this,” she said. “I think it’s about how do we find a good solution and how we all work together, you know, maybe to find that common space where this can actually happen but then at the same time using it more as an opportunity to get neighborhood leaders active and working together and being more a part of their community.”

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