AURORA | Hundreds of street racers and cruisers effectively shut down southbound Interstate 225 from east Alameda to Colfax avenues with gridlock Sunday night.
Police said said between 600 and 800 cars were involved in the veritable parade of drivers racing and cruising on the interstate, as well as some other areas in the city.
“It is likely the group will continue engaging in street racing in various areas tonight…” Aurora Police said in a tweet at about 10:30 p.m. “Officers continue to try to manage the situation.”
No details of tickets or arrests were made available as of Monday morning.
Widespread street racing has become a regular problem in Aurora, according to police.
Aurora city council members are considering bolstering local laws against street racing following a noted uptick in the high-speed activity in the past year, officials said at a public meeting in late February.
Aurora Police Traffic Lt. Mike Hanifin briefed members of the city council’s public safety policy committee on how difficult it has been for local officers to combat the reported proliferation of illegal speed contests across the region.
“Street racing has become a significant metro-wide and Front Range nuisance with definite public safety implications,” Hanifin told council members. “These groups and organizations are large and becoming more sophisticated. They are brazen, and they are emboldened with their actions. They are utilizing social media sites and live feeds to promote their illegal street racing. Law enforcement in general in the metro area and along the Front Range … are severely outnumbered and at a significant disadvantage.”
To counter the increase, Aurora council member Francoise Bergan is considering floating a measure that would allow local police to seize vehicles found to be involved in street racing, officials said.
City attorneys are still researching how to shape the potential measure, according to Deputy City Attorney Julie Heckman. Police in Colorado Springs recently asked council members in the state’s second-largest city to pass such a measure, according to reporting from KRDO.
Hanifin said traditional traffic abatement measures and penalties have little effect against street racers, a trend that has pushed local authorities to appeal to state and local lawmakers to strengthen the codes police can enforce.
In the somewhat rare instance local police are able to physically stop a suspected street racer, Hanifin said the current penalties of trespassing, reckless driving or careless driving charges do little to deter the repeated activity.
“When we are able to stop people, when they don’t run from us, we issue a summons and they plead guilty — they don’t even argue,” he said. “They just pay the fine because it’s not a deterrent for them.”
The state currently has a misdemeanor citation for “exhibition of a speed contest” on its books, a misdemeanor that can carry up to a year in jail and fines up to $1,000.
Aurora police did not immediately respond to a request seeking to clarify how many such citations were issued in Aurora last year.
Hanifin described a perpetual game of whack-a-mole between local traffic cops and street racers who sometimes congregate in groups of more than 1,000 vehicles, typically in more industrial warehouse districts. About 40 Aurora police personnel are assigned to the city’s traffic unit at any given time.
“They move on pretty quickly once we move into the area, but we’re basically displacing them to another city or location,” he said.
While the practice of street racers inundating a specific intersection is relatively uncommon in Aurora, Hanifin said, there was such an instance near the intersection of East Sixth Avenue and Peoria Street about two months ago.
Many of the suspected street racers are armed and occasionally goad local police by firing shots in the air, Hanifin said.
“They actively taunt police, and they express no fear of repercussion,” he said.
Councilperson Marsha Berzins, who represents the city’s central Ward III and sits on the public safety committee, said her inbox is frequently flooded with complaints of street racing in the region.
“To me, that’s frightening that there are that many people closing down an intersection with firearms,” she said.
It’s unclear when a potential ordinance may be brought back to committee or brought directly to the council floor for further consideration. Bergan did not respond to a request for comment seeking to clarify when she may move forward with such legislation.