San Jose officials are alarmed at the recent surge in shows and illegal street races that have attracted contestants and spectators from across California. They plan to punish people who organize and sponsor such events and add new road barriers to deter them.
As part of a series of street racing proposals approved by the San Jose City Council this week, the city plans to erect physical barriers at at least five popular secondary intersections, and possibly add stationary license plate readers there. The city is also drafting an ordinance making it a crime to organize an illegal street race, including promoting, endorsing, or encouraging it on social media.
In addition, the city wants to spend more money to address the problem and set up a full-time racing enforcement unit in the city’s police department. As things stand today, reports on sideshow and street races are being processed either by officials working overtime or by people who have to be withdrawn from their regular patrol duties.
“This is a very dangerous situation that poses dangers not only to these sideshow, which are sufficient on their own, but also poses dangers to every neighborhood in the city if our police force becomes so thin,” said councilor Maya Esparza at Tuesday’s night council meeting.
The Bay Area has long struggled to contain orchestrated shows that have spread from Oakland to San Jose and, more recently, to San Francisco.
About a year ago, Oakland Police promised to step up enforcement after multiple sideshow that resulted in serious injuries and property damage. Even so, weekend shows there and elsewhere continue to attract hundreds. In San Francisco last weekend, a driver hit and injured four pedestrians while performing stunts during a sideshow in the mission district.
In San Jose, the illegal street race has killed at least seven people in recent years, including participants and innocent bystanders. In 2015, a 20-year-old driver, Alyson Snow, was killed when he was hit by someone believed to be street racing. Later that year, three teenagers were killed in a street race. In October 2018, Lorraine Garcia was killed when her taxi was hit by a car that was allegedly street racing. And in August 2019, Miguel Angel Rodriguez and Ernesto Chapa were killed in a fatal two-car race on the streets of San Jose.
To stop the illegal races and their deadly consequences, San Jose officials passed an ordinance two years ago making it illegal to knowingly watch a street race or sideline, either during the show or when people are watching start preparing. Under the regulation, onlookers can be charged with a misdemeanor and can be punished with fines of up to $ 1,000, six months in prison, or a combination of both.
Although the Spectator Ordinance has given San Jose police officers an additional tool to deter illegal races, city guides say cracking down on event organizers is the next necessary step.
The proposed new law – known as the “Promoter” Ordinance – seeks to hold illegal racing orchestras responsible for damage to property caused by such events, including public roads, as well as the cost of all police officers, vehicles and helicopters incurred a sideline was responded to.
“We as a city can stand up today and loudly tell sideshow companies that we will hold them responsible for planning, initiating and participating in these illegal events,” said San Jose Police Captain Todd Trayer on Tuesday.
In the past few weeks and months, street races and shows have become even more common in San Jose. Some events have attracted hundreds of cars and turned into gunfire violence that requires massive police action.
According to the SJPD, over the past three months only 43% of people named driving or attending a sideshow in San Jose in the past three months were from the city of San Jose. The remaining 57% traveled to San Jose from more than two dozen cities across California, including San Francisco, Livermore, Los Angeles, and Stockton.
“That’s a big number and it gives us an idea of the draw the city is currently having from people outside the city,” Trayer said.
We had a very busy night with the patrol responding to two major incidents. In addition, we carried out the sideshow enforcement.
We were called to the intersection of Capitol Expwy and Tully Rd to attend a large amount of sideshow activity. pic.twitter.com/naceIDBHwZ
– Media work by the San José Police (@SJPD_PIO) March 28, 2021
A resident named Ricardo, who lives on Communications Hill, has recently witnessed several illegal races in his living room and is increasingly concerned about the level of violence involved, he told city council on Tuesday evening.
“These aren’t some kids just showing off their cars,” Ricardo said. “This is far worse, and if we don’t do anything, it will only get worse.”
In addition to developing an ordinance to punish event organizers, the city will install new paving stones and deterrent barriers in five areas of the city, including the intersection of Tully Road and Ruby Avenue. At intersections, drivers see obstacles that are supposed to narrow the lanes. And they will see semicircular islands within intersections to keep people from making donuts. The city’s Department of Transportation estimates the pilot program will cost $ 200,000.
“We don’t know if they’ll be effective,” said Laura Wells, assistant director for transportation. “But we hope this works … It’s something that can be done quickly and cheaply than trying to do something more physical.”
Aman Diwaker, a South San Jose resident, commended the city for pursuing the latest corrective measures and urged officials to continue to take “all necessary precautions” to attack the sideshow and save lives.
“We consider ourselves victims,” Diwaker said of residents of the neighborhoods where the illegal activities take place. “But really the victims are the parents of these children (who die as a result of the races) who have to suffer.”