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KCMO City Council Putting Up Roadblocks Against Reckless Drag Racing On City Streets

052621_cm_StreetRacing
KCUR
Kansas City has been seeing more street racing events like this in recent months.

The City Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee endorsed an ordinance that gives the city and police more tools to investigate these crimes and impound vehicles to be used as evidence.

Reckless drag racing, burnouts and other dangerous driving stunts have frustrated Kansas City police, residents and motorists, especially during the pandemic, and have also spawned shootings and other violence.

Now the City Council is taking action to try to confront the illegal activity and deter these nuisance street takeovers.

On Wednesday, the council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee endorsed an ordinance that gives the city and police more tools to investigate these crimes and impound vehicles to be used as evidence. The measure goes to the full council on Thursday for final passage.

“There are Kansas Citians that are fearful just driving down the street and all of a sudden they see street racing,” Jane Brown, legal counsel to Mayor Quinton Lucas, told Transportation Committee members at a May 19 meeting. “The public streets are created and maintained for public use. They are not for individuals to engage in what really is the sport of street racing.”

In recent months, videos of several incidents have been shared on social media, including vehicles doing “donuts” in front of the T-Mobile Center in the 1300 block of Grand Boulevard.

In another incident, police said several people were shot and a police car was damaged by gunfire as racers roamed through the city.

“Street racing has become increasingly a hazard to both the pedestrians and the motoring public within the city,” police Captain Martin Cobbinah told the committee. “We believe the ordinance should be such that those individuals who are cited understand the damage they are doing to both the city and private property.”

He said irresponsible firearms use at some of these events is even more worrisome, especially with the large crowds that gather.

“Our biggest concern is there’s going to be more injuries, accidents, fatalities on a different level as a result of this activity,” he said.

Police aren’t inclined to chase racers at the scene because of the risk to other motorists. The new ordinance gives them the power to seize the vehicle or vehicles at a later time, following execution of a search warrant. The vehicles can be impounded for up to 30 days. There is an appeal process for motorists to challenge the impoundment.

While the ordinance adds these provisions, it also reduces some potential penalties. Under current law, the penalty for street racing, including for spectators, is up to $500 and six months in jail.

The new proposal reduces the first violation penalty to a fine of up to $150 and 30 days in jail. The maximum penalty of $500 or six months in jail would apply for a third and subsequent violations. Under the change, spectators would not face jail time but could get a $100 fine.

Some council members were mystified by the allure of urban street racing.

“I guess I’m showing my age but what ever happened to going to a deserted road outside the city and racing?” Councilwoman Katheryn Shields asked. “Whether it was down by the river or just out in the country. This is an interesting change in the dynamics of how individuals are involved in street racing.”

Several council members worried about what might happen if a young motorist engages in this activity without a parent’s knowledge, and that vehicle is then impounded for 30 days, imperiling the family’s livelihood.

Cobbinah said the motorists are typically older, and 16- to 18-year-olds are more likely to be spectators. He said in the case of minors, where the parent is cooperative, the minor could be issued a ticket and the vehicle doesn’t need to be impounded as evidence.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance writer in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.
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