Illegal street takeovers have killed and injured bystanders in Los Angeles County in recent years, and now county officials are planning to ask the public for ideas to curb the increasingly popular activity.
The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday asked for a comprehensive report on the dangerous pastime, which grew in popularity during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The county also plans to hold a public forum to address the most effective tactics to deter participants and spectators, and to look at options that have not worked in the past.
In Compton, known as the "mecca of street takeovers," sheriff's deputies say they have responded to hundreds of takeover incidents in the city since January.
In recent years, street takeovers have become a weekly occurrence in neighborhoods across Los Angeles County, where drivers perform "doughnuts" in the middle of busy intersections or race their vehicles in residential streets.
The county is not the first government agency to take action against street takeovers. The Northern California city of Santa Rosa has filed a lawsuit against organizers for polluting waterways with debris kicked up from shredded tires.
Spectators, participants and bystanders have been hurt or killed by drivers performing stunts. There is a general disregard from takeover organizers for the communities and families affected, county Supervisor Holly Mitchell said as she introduced the motion for the comprehensive report.
It has become dangerous for anyone close to a street takeover, Mitchell said.
"The mere act of walking across the street, returning home from work and the grocery store has become hazardous in too many communities across L.A. County. And for all of us, I believe that's unacceptable," she said.
An official response could include discouraging organizers from promoting events online, expanding technology to monitor speeding with cameras at busy intersections, and increasing the penalty for drivers. The plan could also add venues for legal street racing in the most affected communities.
While a date has not been set for a public forum, residents who have been affected by street racing believe that the forum is long overdue.
Maria Rivas Cruz and Raymond Olivares were struck by a man driving 100 mph in front of their home in Willowbrook in February. Olivares, 27, died and Cruz was seriously injured.
Cruz works as an elementary school teacher, and Olivares worked as a civil engineer for the city of Los Angeles. The couple planned to get married in December to mark their 12th anniversary together and had purchased a home where they wanted to start a family.
"I go to bed and I wake up and he's not next to me," Cruz said at Tuesday's board meeting, where she walked with the assistance of a cane. "I have physical scars on my face, on my hand, on my arm, on my leg. But the scars that nobody will ever understand and ever see are the ones internally. I am tired. I am mad."
Olivares' sister, Cindy Enamorado, said that street takeovers promote violence, vandalism, drug use, and driving under the influence, and that all of it is organized over social media. She encouraged the county to use the existing education program from the organization Street Racing Kills, which was founded by the surviving family members of victims of street racing.
She believes people who participate in street racing should hear directly from the family members of those who were killed.
"Let them know that there's consequences to their actions and what they can do by hearing impact stories from victims and how they're destroying lives," Enamorado said.
The sheriff's Civilian Oversight Commission held a virtual meeting last September to address the issue and prepared a report that recommended the formation of a Street Takeover Management Plan. Although the recommendation was not adopted by the commission, it calls attention to the need for a comprehensive look at the problem, according to Mitchell's motion.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.