Law enforcement action difficult in street racing incidents, officials want change

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Traffic came to a standstill late Sunday night on Interstate 225 from Colfax Avenue to Alameda Avenue. Aurora police say about 600 to 800 cars were caught in the gridlock after illegal street racers blocked access to the southbound lanes.

“It’s hard to catch them in the act. A lot of times we are relying on calls from the community about these types of problems, but by the time we show up, they could be gone,” Officer Matthew Longshore said. “They were only on the interstate a short amount of time. They’re not shutting it down for hours.”

He said street racing groups have become sophisticated, using social media to connect with others and promote their races.

“They post these notices on social media and take them down after just a couple of minutes, telling people to screenshot them and share them with their buddies. So it is hard for us to know where they will be,” Longshore said.

They also outnumber the officers who are trying to keep the roads clear and safe.

“It’s very dangerous to our community. There’s people not only just stuck in traffic with people surrounding them. These types of people use weapons, fireworks to intimidate people so they can’t drive past them or can’t get around them,” he said.

“You are possibly prohibiting people experiencing medical emergencies from getting to the care they need. If one of your family members was in dire need of being transported to the hospital and stuck because of the idiotic actions you’re taking on the interstate and something happens to that person, that is something you should be held responsible for,” Longshore said.

Aurora City Council Member Francoise Bergan said something needs to be done.

“I was shocked. We have heard from constituents all day today that are outraged,” she said.

And it’s not just this weekend. She said it’s been an ongoing problem, even on side streets and business parking lots. She is in the process of researching and drafting an ordinance that would allow officers to seize cars involved in illegal street racing. 

“I’ve heard from law enforcement they don’t feel the tools we currently have are effective in terms of deterring this behavior. They feel threat of seizing their vehicle would be one way to do this,” Bergan said.

She said that Colorado Springs recently passed a similar measure. She wants to make sure people’s civil liberties are not violated.

“Certainly we would have due process, get the car owner a warning letter. If a car is seized, they would have their day in court. Would not sell vehicle, we would hold it,” she said.

“We want to be able to target the cars we know are participating in these events so we can go after them so we can get them off the streets so they can’t participate,” Longshore said.

Bergan said the process could take up to three months. And she is concerned if only certain cities adopt similar ordinances, the problem will just move to neighboring cities. She is encouraging state legislators to get involved and make the penalties harsher.

“One city can’t do this alone. Certainly we want to deter this behavior and stop this from happening that is dangerous and can be deadly. I would not think about proposing anything like this if I didn’t think it was very dangerous,” Bergan said.

She has a message for people taking part in illegal races: “Please consider the consequences of such behavior that it could lead to accidents even fatalities. I know it is certainly not their intent. They are looking to have fun and a good time, but I would hope they would look at the fact this is not safe to do this on our public roads.”

Aurora police say no one has been arrested in Sunday night’s incident. They are looking for witnesses and video or pictures of those responsible for shutting down the freeway. You can submit an anonymous tip to our partners at Metro Denver Crime Stoppers.

Or there is a Colorado based coalition of law enforcement agencies trying to crack down on illegal street racing where you can submit anonymous tips.

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