Norcross to issue fines and possibly jail time under street racing ban

Gwinnett County Police Department used its helicopter to identify a group of street racers doing donuts in a Norcross parking lot. (Courtesy of Gwinnett County Police Department)
Gwinnett County Police Department used its helicopter to identify a group of street racers doing donuts in a Norcross parking lot. (Courtesy of Gwinnett County Police Department)

Cities await statewide law on racing that could bring even tougher penalties

A Norcross ordinance banning street racing and reckless driving exhibitions within its city limits is now on the books, making it the latest metro city to crack down on the activity.

Norcross City Council unanimously passed the ordinance Monday evening, hoping to curb street racing by issuing fines and possibly jailing offenders. Under the local law, organizers, drivers and spectators of street race events and related activities could face fines up to $1,000 and up to six months of jail time. Police officers can also impound street racing vehicles.

“This ordinance certainly sends the word out to the public that we will not tolerate street racing in the City of Norcross,” Mayor Craig Newton said.

Last June, Norcross police officers started to focus their attention on the southwestern portion of the city following complaints of cars spinning tires along Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, said Chief Bill Grogan.

Police officers first noticed an uptick in street racing and other related activities in May 2020, receiving complaints from residents on most weekends, Grogan said. The department believes less traffic on the roads due to the pandemic led to the increase in street racing, speed exhibitions and tire “burn-outs” across metro Atlanta, he said.

The increased patrols have led to an overall decline in reported incidents, Grogan said, but the ordinance could help further discourage the activity.

“Using our blue cruise lights as a deterrent, we were able to reduce the number of ‘burn-outs’ to only once or twice a month, but not completely,” Grogan said in an email.

Norcross joined the growing list of metro Atlanta cities who have banned street racing over the past year, including Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, Roswell and Sandy Springs. Less than a month ago, Decatur became the fourth DeKalb city to ban the activity.

Gwinnett County Police Department has also stepped up its patrols, reporting last month that it has started conducting extra traffic stops. These stops have led to tickets and warrants for misdemeanors and felonies.

The county has considered street racing an issue for a while, but it has observed an uptick in recent months, Gwinnett Police Corp. Collin Flynn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month. The activity occurs countywide, with police officers responding to incidents in a new place each time, he said.

House Bill 534, which aims to crack down on anyone who organizes, participates or promotes street racing, passed the Georgia House and Senate last week. The bill would penalize offenders with license suspensions, penalties as high as $5,000 and prison time.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp, who previously voiced support for putting an end to the activity. If Kemp signs the bill, Norcross officials might need to revise their ordinance’s language to conform with state law, said City Attorney John Underwood. Pending action from Kemp, the city ordinance will regulate and prohibit street racing in the interim, he said.

“Making sure our residents and business owners can safely travel our roads is one of our main objectives,” Grogan said. “This new ordinance, as well as state House Bill 534 which passed the House and Senate last week, will give us the changes needed to put a stop to the drivers who commit these acts.”

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