Updated October 8, 2022 - 10:04 am
Parking lot takeovers. Wild intersection doughnuts that veer perilously close to spectators who are standing in the street. And hundreds of drivers converging on public places to showcase their souped-up cars in a rowdy, stunt-fueled night of mayhem.
What happened in Reno on a recent Friday night, when a dozen drivers were arrested amid such a gathering, could easily come to Las Vegas, Sheriff Joe Lombardo said.
This is why the Metropolitan Police Department’s racing apprehension and intervention detail, also called RAID, exists. The unit was set up as a specialized team to address takeovers, street racing, and reckless driving in all of its incarnations, including driving under the influence, particularly repeat DUI offenses.
Introduced in March, the unit is part of an effort by Metro to lower what Lombardo said has been a “significant increase in the last few months” in traffic deaths in Clark County and just too many traffic fatalities in general.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in late September that fatal crashes in Clark County were up 11 percent over roughly the same period in 2021. Deaths involving pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists were up 15 percent.
“The biggest influence on traffic deaths is omnipresence, us doing enforcement,” Lombardo said during a recent interview. “Education, engineering and enforcement — those are the three E’s in traffic.”
He told the Review-Journal that since its inception, RAID has made 119 arrests, issued 144 citations, towed 149 vehicles and seized 17 firearms.
“There’s two guarantees that I want to put out there for you as the community,” Lombardo said. “We are going to be relentless in our pursuits of these reckless drivers and takeovers in our intersections, and also we are going to do everything that we can to get intervention for those who need help.”
The takeover by hundreds of drivers in Reno is part of an ongoing trend in which mobs of mostly young men and their cars are mobilized to a particular location by social media, Lombardo noted.
And when they get there, they film themselves and post on social media.
It almost happened in Las Vegas in the summer when social media personality “Mr. Gotdamnit,” whose real name is Graham Liberal, was arrested on July 30 by RAID after allegedly planning and promoting a street race south of the Strip.
“Don’t come to our city and think you are going to take over!” Metro tweeted when announcing the arrest.
Court records show that the Clark County district attorney’s office recently declined to prosecute the misdemeanor case.
Lombardo said he knows some critics might think RAID is being too heavy-handed.
“But even in those situations, people say, ‘Oh, it’s just people having fun and venting, and drag racing.’ A lot of people get hurt in that space. And a lot of people get inconvenienced,” Lombardo said. “A lot of people’s constitutional right of freedom is affected. You know, you have no right to take over somebody else’s free movement, and here they are taking over intersections, filming themselves.”
The sheriff said he hopes Metro’s enforcement will cause would-be street racers to change their minds.