It’s not a new crime. Street racing has been popular for as long as there have been fast cars.
But it’s illegal and dangerous, and Atlanta police are the latest local agency to put the brakes on street racing. A weekend crackdown led to 44 arrests and 114 citations, according to police.
And the department’s chief says officers aren’t done targeting those drivers racing on interstates and downtown streets.
“We pledged to deal with these speeders and reckless drivers who have shown a complete disregard for the safety of others with these dangerous antics,” Chief Erika Shields said Monday in an emailed statement. “This weekend, with the help of our law enforcement partners, we made inroads. We will continue to impound, arrest and seek costly fines for those individuals who choose Atlanta for this senseless behavior.”
The investigation was the latest targeting street racers in metro Atlanta, where races have become spectator events and created a buzz on social media. With many streets emptier due to the coronavirus pandemic, the daredevils have more opportunities, according to police.
“This isn’t new,” Carlos Campos, spokesman for Atlanta police, said Monday afternoon. “But what the pandemic did was create a perfect storm where you have young people who are bored; their usual outlets — shopping, hanging out in a park — those were all eliminated by the stay-at-home orders.”
Last year, street racing ended in a deadly Cobb County crash that killed two men, according to police. The two killed, 31-year-old James Wheeler and 35-year-old Douglas Duff Jr., weren't involved in the racing, but they died when their vehicle was hit, police said.
With racers hitting speeds up to 130 mph, there is no reaction time for those in the way, Campos said.
“These activities pose a threat not only to the people doing it but also to other motorists and pedestrians,” Campos said. “Our biggest fear is that they cost innocent lives.”
The latest arrests and citations were issued at several Atlanta locations that have been "hot spots" for racers, including interstates and Spring Street in Midtown, police said. Investigators also had 29 cars impounded and located four firearms, including a semi-automatic weapon. Late last week, two men were arrested after they were caught racing in the Ikea parking lot, AJC.com previously reported.
Those charged and cited are accused of various traffic offenses, including laying drag, speeding and reckless driving, driving under the influence, drinking in public, and possession of marijuana, according to an Atlanta police spokesman. One felon was found to be in possession of a firearm and charged accordingly.
Those arrested range in age from 17 to 43, records show. Five of the suspects are teenagers.
Other agencies assisted with the crackdown, including the Georgia State Patrol, deputies from the Fulton and Clayton county sheriff’s offices and the Atlanta Department of Corrections.
“We could not have done this without the assistance of these agencies, and our ability to work together toward our common goal to stop these behaviors on local streets and highways,” APD Deputy Chief Terrell Griffin said in an emailed statement. “It truly was a team effort.”