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Kansas City hoped that road changes would stop illegal street racing, but it wasn't enough

 A black disc lies in the foreground of a paved street at night. In the background is a car moving through an intersection.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
One of several black pucks dot the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue. The pucks deter people from drifting or having side shows on wide open street spaces.

Since March 29, Kansas City Police have received 296 calls related to street racing and sideshow activities. While the city has invested in some new infrastructure, such as installing plastic discs in the ground that make it harder for stunt drivers, the changes haven't held up as well as officials hoped.

Kansas City is looking for more permanent ways to address the issue of illegal street racing and stunt driving as the summer weather picks up.

Late last year, the city began installing plastic pucks at intersections in neighborhoods like the Crossroads and Power & Light. The discs are meant to stop cars from drifting or cutting donuts in wide open spaces.

While the pucks were somewhat successfully in lessening illegal activity in those spaces, Kansas City Police Captain Corey Carlisle says that racers simply move to another location.

“We’re obviously hoping and looking for other avenues to be able to combat the issues that deal with the public nuisance overall on a larger scale,” Carlisle says.

Since March 29, Kansas City Police have received 296 calls related to drag racing and sideshow activity.

The other problem with the pucks has been durability.

“Our big concern is that they would be basically removed by snowplows [in the winter],” says City Manager Brian Platt. “They didn't hold up as well as we had expected. So our next iteration of safety [devices] in some of those intersections will be larger, more durable, and more resilient.”

A black disc sits on the surface of a street corner. Two white cars can be seen in the background moving blurrily past it.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
One of the black discs that city officials hope will deter street parties and stunt driving sits at the intersection of 13th Street and Grand Boulevard in Kansas City.

According to Platt, the city is now looking into ways to narrow the width of some streets in an effort to make them less attractive for stunt drivers. Some of the options being explored include installing additional speed bumps, lane barriers and roundabouts.

“We’re thinking about what would make it harder to drive anywhere but places you're supposed to drive,” Platt says. “However, enforcement is also a key component to reducing this type of activity. We've gotta have sufficient and rapid enforcement, and monitoring of vehicle behaviors as well.”

The city is asking that residents continue to report unsafe driving or problematic street conditions so they can determine where to focus their immediate attention.

“It's gonna take us a long time to get through every single street,” Platt says. “The best thing that we can all do is communicate exactly the locations that we need to fix, so we can get on top of them and address these problems and move forward.”

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
As KCUR’s Community Engagement Producer, I help welcome our audiences into the newsroom, and bring our journalism out into the communities we serve. Many people feel overlooked or misperceived by the media, and KCUR needs to do everything we can to cover and empower the diverse communities that make up the Kansas City metro — especially the ones who don’t know us in the first place. My work takes the form of reporting stories, holding community events, and bringing what I’ve learned back to Up To Date and the rest of KCUR.

What should KCUR be talking about? Who should we be talking to? Let me know. You can email me at zjperez@kcur.org or message me on Twitter at @zach_pepez.
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