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A six-month operation has led to 60 vehicles being seized and dozens of individuals facing charges for driving offenses, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Thursday.
CMPD said it worked with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office to secure a grand jury indictment on 54 suspects, and warrants were issued on the charge of prearranged racing. Thursday morning, police charged 51 suspects and seized 60 vehicles, Major David Johnson said.
Last October, CMPD began receiving complaints about aggressive driving and organized street racing, police Chief Johnny Jennings said. To crack down on these aggressive drivers, police launched an enforcement operation with other area law-enforcement agencies that led to over 2,500 traffic stops and 3,500 separate violations.
Among the violations the operation found:
▪ Nearly 2,100 charges for speeding
▪ 400 charges for reckless driving
▪ 32 charges for driving while impaired
▪ 10 charges for spontaneous racing violations
▪ four illegal guns seized
“What we saw transcended just minor traffic violations,” Jennings said. “What we were able to get from the public, and what we were able to observe ourselves through our investigation, were people who absolutely had total disregard for the safety of themselves and others.”
Aggressive driving happened frequently near the Interstate 485 and Prosperity Church Road area in northeast Charlotte, so the operation was initially launched there, and then moved to other areas of the city, CMPD said.
In the midst of the operation, Johnson said police would encounter large groups of vehicles — sometimes in the hundreds — gathering in different areas of the city. The vehicles would participate in “hooning,” or aggressively brazen and reckless street racing and driving, Johnson said.
Police in the Charlotte area have been dealing with “aggressive-driving” gatherings and street racing for decades, the Observer has previously reported. Some recent events have been captured on video and posted on social media.
Prearranged street racing charges authorize police to seize any vehicles used in the illegal act, Johnson said.
The vehicles confiscated during the operation will be entered into the court system, and a judge will decide if they will be released to their owners, permanently seized or auctioned off, Johnson said.
A number of the seized vehicles have modifications that gave the owner an advantage over other drivers, and some are so modified, that they won’t be able to be auctioned off, Johnson said.
Vehicles that aren’t auctioned or released to their owners will remain in police custody at a storage facility, according to Johnson.
Car modifications can range in the thousands and include paint, body and engine work.
A letter in the mail
The 300 vehicle owners seen at the various street racing events police investigated during the operation should expect a letter in the mail from Jennings, according to CMPD.
The letter will detail the charges individuals could face if they attend or participate in future street racing events. Charges could include reckless driving, aggressive driving and unlawful racing on streets and highways.
“The CMPD recommends that you immediately cease any illegal activity and follow all motor vehicle laws as defined by the State of North Carolina,” the letter says.
Police are aware of crashes and other incidents that happen at street racing events, but Johnson said those drivers don’t typically call them to file a police report.