Doraville passes law to punish street racing organizers, participants

The arrests come as metro Atlanta police departments continue efforts to crack down on illegal street racing events that have become more prevalent since the start of the pandemic.

Credit: DeKalb County Police Department

Credit: DeKalb County Police Department

The arrests come as metro Atlanta police departments continue efforts to crack down on illegal street racing events that have become more prevalent since the start of the pandemic.

Doraville became the first city to join Atlanta in passing an ordinance to punish street racing organizers, participants and viewers.

The law imposes a fine up to $1,000 for spectators and a fine of $1,000 for organizers and drivers, both of which require a court appearance. Alternatively, the punishment could be up to six months in jail for anyone involved.

Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman said the ordinance, which passed Monday night, aims to increase the penalty for organizers while dissuading viewers.

“Participants at these events put themselves and spectators in danger,” he said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This ordinance is an attempt at addressing this problem and acknowledges that spectators who come out to events and post videos of them on social media play a large part in making this dangerous behavior an attractive way to spend a Saturday night.”

Atlanta’s city council recently ramped up its efforts to catch and punish racers and spectators, the subject of a growing number of complaints. The racers have gathered in large numbers at some intersections since the summer when the coronavirus pandemic left streets emptier than usual. DeKalb County police have reported instances of groups laying drag on interstates as well.

In August, Atlanta passed an ordinance that set out to punish those who attend street racing events, even if they are not driving in them. Doraville’s city leadership attempted to mirror that legislation in their own ordinance.

Atlanta has made multiple adjustments to their law, including limiting the time that a vehicle can be impounded in connection with street racing to 30 days to match state law.

Doraville Police Chief Charles Atkinson said his officers will not impound vehicles that were involved solely because they were involved in street racing. However, he added that police could still impound vehicles for other violations. The city had the ACLU of Georgia review its ordinance before Monday’s vote.

Doraville Councilwoman Maria Alexander, who sponsored the legislation, said action needed to be taken following several recent incidents of racing on private property and in city parks. In March, more than 100 people were cited for loitering in connection with drag racing at Honeysuckle Park.

“Due to the risk to public safety, and the continuing strain on our police resources caused by these incidents, the city felt compelled to take action,” she said in an email.

Atkinson said laying drag has been an issue in the north DeKalb city for years, and he cited multiple recent incidents during a meeting last month.

“Just Tuesday night (Oct. 13) and Wednesday morning (Oct. 14), we responded to Tilly Mill Crossing on Tilly Mill Road,” he said. “There was a group that had just finished upon our officers' arrival, so they’re still in the area, and they’re still doing it.”

Brookhaven’s city leaders are also considering an ordinance that mirrors Atlanta’s law and would impose fines for attendees and street racers. It will be put to a vote during Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

Their law would impose a fine between $500 and $1,000, and violators can also receive up to six months in jail. Any vehicle used in a street race would be impounded for 30 days or until the case is settled, according to Brookhaven’s ordinance.

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