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‘If you are out there … you are committing a crime’: Police crack down on street racing

Updated October 15, 2021 - 6:12 am

Dennis Minster says street racers show up on the roadways of his normally quiet northwest Las Vegas neighborhood about once a month.

Their cars peel out and speed down the street, disrupting the tranquility of the community near Durango Drive and Oso Blanca Road. The speed limit on the road is 45 miles per hour, but Minster said the motorists are driving much faster.

Once, he said, he looked out his window and saw two sports cars near his home spinning out in the intersection repeatedly, with tires screeching and smoke rising into the air. Another day, a home security video captured a white sports car crashing and spinning through the neighborhood.

“We will usually have a few people come around and do donuts in the street here,” said Minster. “Almost every weekend, we have people flying up or flying down (the road). It’s usually right when we are trying to put our baby down to sleep. A lot of speeding, donuts, smoke. I’m really concerned about them crashing, hitting kids.”

Street racing on the rise

Minster is not alone in his concerns. Capt. Greg Munson said street racing is on the rise in Southern Nevada. Las Vegas police just started monitoring the number of street racing calls this year and could not provide figures, but Munson said anecdotal reports indicate an increase in the Las Vegas Valley.

He said racing often involves large groups of people congregating to watch motorists in sports cars drive recklessly, doing donuts and drag racing on streets made for traditional vehicle traffic.

The behavior has made some neighborhoods at times look like a backdrop for another “Fast and Furious” movie, Munson said, with videos posted on social media demonstrating how perilous street racing can be. One video posted on YouTube in 2019 showed cars whizzing a few feet past crowds of people in Las Vegas.

A video posted on YouTube as recently as January claimed to be an intersection takeover in Las Vegas, showing motorists continuously driving in circles. Yet another video showed sports cars spinning their wheels on the Las Vegas Strip.

“It’s not safe. It is dangerous,” Munson said. “There are people drifting right by little kids. Why you would have little kids out there, I don’t know. All it takes is one mistake and someone dies.

“You are not allowed to spectate these events,” he said. “If you are out there participating, cheering them on, videotaping, partaking… you are committing a crime,” Munson said.

Cracking down on racers

As a result, Las Vegas police are now allocating a single traffic officer to investigate street racing full time.

He said police have made eight arrests, issued two warrants and two citations for offenders in recent months for crimes related to street racing. Street racers who are taking over intersections or driving recklessly are charged with a gross misdemeanor count of reckless driving, Munson said.

This means street racers face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.

Spectators, meanwhile, can be charged with a misdemeanor offense known as spectator at an illegal speed contest.

“We will not allow this to happen,” Munson said. “We are taking action.”

In a May street racing investigation that resulted in three arrests, Las Vegas police said they had received complaints about street racing at Shadow Rock Park at 2650 Los Feliz Street, near North Hollywood Boulevard. Police conducted surveillance at the park, watching a crowd of people surround cars that were street racing. Police said in arrest reports that they subsequently stopped a Black Dodge Charger and a Ford Focus and arrested two men and a woman on drug and gun charges.

State grant to help enforcement

The Nevada Office of Traffic Safety is also helping. Las Vegas police recently were awarded $95,000 from the state for a speed and reckless driving enforcement project. The money will pay overtime for officers doing traffic enforcement and conducting investigations of “speed takeovers and speed contests,” said Andrew Bennett, spokesman for the Office of Traffic Safety.

The grant went into effect this month and is allocated through September. It was issued in large part because of concerns about street racing in the Las Vegas Valley. Enforcement efforts using the grant money will rely on information gathered from the traffic investigator now assigned full-time to investigate street racing.

The grant money was funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Enforcement efforts will focus on curbing the increase in speed, reckless driving crashes and fatalities on Southern Nevada roadways. Statewide, fatalities are up by 25 percent from 2020, Bennett said. Bennett said over the last five years about 32 percent of traffic fatalities in the state involved excessive speed.

“The enforcement teams will be deployed as many times as possible based on available grant funds,” Bennett said.

Minster said he has reported the street racing to police. He has not observed increased police patrols in his neighborhood recently, but he is encouraged to hear that Las Vegas police have allocated an officer full-time to investigate the problem.

”We report it when we can,” Minster said. “It happens so fast, they are gone long before any police come. We try to take video when we can.

“I know that they are just starting to make this more of a priority. Hope to see more of it in the future.”

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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