Street racing continues to plague neighborhoods despite the Atlanta Police Department’s efforts to crack down on illegal activity.
On Oct. 12, the City Council’s Public Safety/Legal Administration committee listened to nearly two hours of comments phoned in by angry and upset residents demanding that measures be taken to curb street racing.
Residents complained about sleepless nights, safety fears and concerns over property values, and offered tips to the police on how to track street racers who organize events via social media. Other callers demanded more action from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, while some said they were considering moving out of the city.
Committee chair and Councilmember Joyce Sheperd acknowledged that “people are extremely upset” by the ongoing issue and said she had called 911 a few times herself.
Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said street racing hotspots continued to be Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead, but calls were coming in from all over the city about incidents. He released a report on charges related to street racing, which can be read at this link.
He said as of Oct. 11, 494 drivers have been charged year-to-date with illegal street racing, a catchall term which includes reckless driving, speeding, laying drag and doughnuts. Bryan said with the municipal court still closed due to the pandemic, many of those charged have yet to receive any punishment.
Bryant said 911 calls about street racing dramatically increased after APD released a video in September announcing a crackdown and encouraging residents to call the emergency number.
Over the weekend of Oct. 9-11, Bryan said, officers made 255 traffic stops and issued 202 citations related to street racing. He also said the department’s strategy changed last week with officers proactively patrolling areas where street racers like to gather and do their stunts. He said Georgia State Patrol units would be rejoining the crackdown effort.
“Once court reopens, I think we will see a significant reduction,” Bryant said, noting that fines starting at $1,000, impounding of vehicles, and possible jail time will be a deterrent.
Vehicle impounding has been a confusing issue under a recently revised city ordinance that refers to seizing race cars for 30 days or more, but city attorneys have said that provision is unenforceable. Vehicles can only be impounded for brief periods for safety reasons and can be retrieved quickly by the owner or another responsible driver, city attorneys previously told the council.
Atlanta Municipal Court Chief Judge Christopher Portis told the committee that the court plans to reopen by the end of October after it works out pandemic safety and sanitation protocols.
Councilmember Carla Smith floated the idea of asking the Georgia Legislature to increase points on drivers’ licenses, which could lead to revocation for habitual violators.
Sheperd said she believed the ongoing activity stemmed from a number of factors, including the courts being closed and the fact that APD has a city-mandated “no pursuit” policy.
“These drivers know we have a no-chase policy and the courts are closed, so they are flying up and down the streets like crazy,” Sheperd said.
–John Ruch contributed