Atlanta street racers now face longer jail time after arrest, police say

The Atlanta City Detention Center in downtown Atlanta. Christina Matacotta/

The Atlanta City Detention Center in downtown Atlanta. Christina Matacotta/

People arrested on charges related to street racing in Atlanta will no longer automatically be eligible for bond, police officials said Friday.

Public safety leaders hope the policy change will help deter the mayhem that’s created concern in neighborhoods around the city in recent months.

“This is something that we consider to be a game-changer,” Atlanta police Sgt. John Chafee told reporters Friday.

Previously, if someone was arrested on traffic charges connected to street racing, they were able to immediately bond out of jail, and the impact of that arrest was minimal, the sergeant said.

Now, the city has officially declared street racing a public nuisance and public safety concern, Chafee said. Offenders will have to appear before a judge 24 to 48 hours after their arrest before they can receive a bond. The judge could also put special conditions on that bond.

Atlanta police have made nearly 500 arrests this year in connection with street racing, which often involves drivers loudly driving in tight circles amidst a cheering crowd on weekend nights. But those cases have largely not moved forward while Atlanta’s Municipal Court is closed due to the pandemic.

Chafee said the court plans to reopen Oct. 26. Street racing offenses can result in up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Over 2,200 residents signed a petition urging the court to resume cases and prioritize street racing.

“We’re hopeful that this is going to have an impact on public safety,” Chafee said.