Watching street racing in Atlanta could lead to $1,000 fine, jail time

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Bystanders who watch street races in Atlanta might want to leave those events in their rearview mirrors.

The Atlanta City Council on Monday approved an ordinance that sets penalties for those who attend street racing events, even if they are not driving in them. Bystanders who knowingly attend such events could be fined up to $1,000 or spend up to six months in jail, according to the ordinance.

The legislation comes amid efforts to crack down on street racing within the city.

Police reported an uptick in racing events in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic leaving streets emptier.

The races became spectator events, according to Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos.

“This isn’t new,” he previously said. “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.”

Residents said they could hear cars burning circles in the streets outside their homes, Channel 2 Action News reported.

“If you look at the tire marks and see how close they are to homes and businesses, the margin for error is so small,” Castleberry Hill resident Jacob Burkhardt told the news station.

In May, former police Chief Erika Shields promised to “deal with these speeders and reckless drivers who have shown a complete disregard for the safety of others with these dangerous antics.”

The city council believes passing legislation against watching street racing will help Atlanta police enforce laws against laying drag more effectively.

“In addition to prohibiting and penalizing street racing and reckless driving exhibitions, it is also necessary to prohibit and penalize the organization of, and participation in, such activities, which draw large numbers of spectators, causing a disturbance of the peace and a threat to public safety,” the ordinance said.