Dallas city council members Wednesday asked police and Texas lawmakers to help the city boost enforcement against street racing and intersection takeovers.
Neighbors say street racing has become a tremendous nuisance across North Texas and especially in Dallas.
Before a briefing on the issue in Dallas began Wednesday, two public speakers who live near Kimball High School along Westmoreland Road told the city council about the street racing problem in their neighborhood.
They said a fence had just been knocked down by racer on Westmoreland.
Anga Sanders, who sees the spot from a window at her house, said she has called police many times to report street racing.
“They did make some arrests and it stopped for a while but it's now back,” she said.
Sanders said accidents have wound up on her property before and she fears a fatal wreck from the street racing, like one that killed three people in Fort Worth last month.
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Neighbor Craig Wheeler told the city council that Dallas police are slow to respond when called about street racing.
“By the time they get out there, the vehicles are gone,” Wheeler said.
His complaint about slow response was echoed by city council members at the briefing.
Mayor Eric Johnson said he hears the racing complaints from across the city.
“Our residents are counting on us and in a lot of ways, they feel helpless. And that bothers me,” Johnson said.
Police commanders said they had established a task force to focus on street racing and intersection take overs by trick drivers and their spectators.
Assistant Chief Lonzo Anderson said the task force officers are typically scheduled on weekend nights when the incidents occur.
“We try to have personnel that are designated just for the speed and racer behavior and for the speed and racer calls,” he said.
Police said attention on social media is part of the motivation for the drivers.
The presence of Texas State Troopers to help Dallas police has been controversial in the past over what some neighbors claimed to be excessive traffic enforcement.
But the use of State Troopers to combat street racing was supported by several city council members Wednesday.
Councilman Omar Narvaez said Dallas Police on desk assignments who are going to be replace with new civilian employees should more rapidly be transferred to street racing enforcement.
“If it's a matter of manpower, we've got the manpower. We're just not utilizing it. That's how I see it,” Narvaez said.
Assistant Chief Anderson said the suggestion would receive attention.
“We will check this out, and we will consider this. I agree with you. There is an opportunity there to get additional resources,” Anderson said.
Police showed recent video from a police helicopter of one intersection take over where officers did arrive in time to arrest participants.
Councilman David Blewett who represents much of the downtown area, said street racing should become a priority one response for police instead of slower priority two.
Blewett said guns have been seized from many of the racers who were arrested.
“These guys seem to be driving down the street, going into intersections, doing donuts and firing weapons so I’m not sure we’ve appropriately identified the danger here,” Blewett said.
The street racing task force has demonstrated some success using several strategies against racers.
At a grocery store parking lot that was targeted for trick driving, a police tower that advertised video recording discouraged vehicles from returning.
Dallas added a new law this year that includes the threat of citations for racing spectators.
With support from other city departments, the street racing task force installed barricades in some intersections, which discouraged take overs.
Councilman Adam Medrano said those efforts have made a noticeable improvement in some places, but the vehicles reappeared in new locations.
“You’re stopping them in one area. They’re going to find another place to be. But we can continue working on strategies to slow this down,” Medrano said.
Officials said changes in state law are needed to seize vehicles involved in racing and stunt driving.
“We tow them in and Monday they show up with their paper work and get their vehicle back,” Deputy Chief Jesse Reyes said.
Councilman Adam McGough said tougher laws would send a clear message.
“I don’t think we solve this problem until we figure out how to make it known, that, in the City of Dallas, if you’re going to partake in this type of behavior you’re going to lose the vehicle. And that gets everybody’s attention. That’s involved in this stuff because that’s what they’re proud of,” McGough said.
On behalf of residents city wide, Mayor Eric Johnson said he would work to add street racing enforcement to the city’s action request to state lawmakers for a new session of the Texas Legislature that begins next month.
“There are certain things that government is supposed to be doing at this level and public safety is that bedrock,” Johnson said. “They expect people who commit offenses to be brought to justice.”
Dallas Deputy Police Chief Reyes said he has been talking with commanders in other Texas cities who have the same problem with street racing. It is a statewide issue.
In some ways, Reyes said Dallas is ahead of the others because they do not have the ordinance to penalize spectators of illegal street racing.
Anga Sanders said she was pleased with Wednesday’s attention to the issue after lack of attention from police to many of her past requests.
“I was always met with a polite, ‘Yes Ma'am, we’ll see what we can do.’ But nothing ever happened,” she said.