Kids as young as 11 among those arrested in Clayton street-racing bust

More than 100 people were arrested early Sunday after gathering in a Sam's Club parking lot to watch street racing, according to police. (Clayton County Police Department)
More than 100 people were arrested early Sunday after gathering in a Sam's Club parking lot to watch street racing, according to police. (Clayton County Police Department)

Credit: Clayton County police

Credit: Clayton County police

They ranged in ages from 11 to 29, and some drove at least 50 miles to gather early Sunday and watch cars lay drags and spin doughnuts in a Sam’s Club parking lot, according to Clayton County police.

Officers were tipped off to videos posted on social media of cars speeding on their way to the Jonesboro Road parking lot, Clayton police Capt. Gary Flinn said Tuesday. By the time officers arrived, there were more than 100 cars and dozens of spectators, he said.

“As the officers were blocking the entrances to prevent the vehicles from getting away, many of the vehicles started going through the woods, over the curbs, through the grass, across sidewalks, and other things,” Flinn said.

Explore102 arrested in street-racing bust in Clayton County

Officers quickly called for help from other agencies, and Clayton County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Jonesboro and Morrow police officers, and the Georgia State Patrol assisted with the investigation. A total of 102 people were arrested: 75 adults and 27 juveniles, according to police.

The adults were charged with loitering or prowling, and some were charged with possession of a firearm under 18, police said. Of the 27 juveniles arrested, their parents were charged with curfew violations. The names of those charged were not released, but Flinn said most of them did not live in Clayton. Some traveled 50 miles or more, from as far as Clarke or Monroe counties, he said.

Investigators impounded 48 vehicles and seized four firearms and less than an ounce of marijuana, police said. After investigators review surveillance camera footage from businesses in the area, some could face additional reckless driving charges, Flinn said.

Although investigators believe street racing was the reason for the cars and crowds, none of those arrested were charged with racing, Flinn said. That’s because they were on private property and current Georgia law limits officers from securing street racing charges unless it’s on a public roadway.

Two bills toughening the laws against street racing are under consideration in the Georgia Legislature and Gov. Brian Kemp has voiced his support.

“In Georgia, we will not tolerate this reckless, illegal behavior,” Kemp said during a press conference last month.

The measure, House Bill 534, would allow authorities to suspend the licenses of some violators for up to a year and calls for penalties as high as $5,000. Repeat offenders could face additional prison time under the proposal and lose their cars. Promoting drag racing and reckless stunt driving would also become crimes. Senate Bill 10 is similar and would provide for the issuance of special license plates for high-performance vehicles often used in racing and stunts.

Many cities and police agencies in metro Atlanta have already gotten tough against street racing. On Monday, Decatur became the fourth DeKalb County city to pass a law against street racing.

“This activity is certainly an immediate threat to public safety and also a nuisance to the communities where this activity takes place,” Decatur police Deputy Chief Scott Richards said during a City Council meeting.

Clayton County police said 102 people were arrested during a street-racing bust early Sunday.
Clayton County police said 102 people were arrested during a street-racing bust early Sunday.

Credit: Clayton County police

Credit: Clayton County police

Atlanta and Gwinnett County police have also taken tough stances against the loud and potentially dangerous driving, which has seen an uptick during the past year.

Sunday’s street racing bust isn’t the first such incident in Clayton, police said.

In March 2020, traffic on I-285 came to a standstill just before midnight when a group of drift racers blocked all lanes in a tunnel underneath a runway at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Viral video of the event showed a large group of spectators in the middle of the highway as drivers took turns doing doughnuts and burnouts.

Flinn said the weekend arrests weren’t done to make an example out those involved. “It’s not to make a bigger deal out of it. It’s not safe,” he said. “It’s jeopardizing lives.”

In Other News