Aurora city council mulls ordinance to thwart rise in illegal street racing

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AURORA | 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 Thursday.

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.

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Its5oclocksomewhere
Its5oclocksomewhere
1 month ago

I think we need to get social workers more involved, tackling this problem in the homes and neighborhoods. Police are not equipped or staffed to deal with this issue.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago

Actually this could be an interesting beginning
Take the cars.

Wheels
Wheels
1 month ago

About time. Was almost was hit crossing the street in my wheelchair.

Gregory D Garduno
Gregory D Garduno
1 month ago

I live in the Tower Triangle area, and we hear loud car engines in the distance to the west on a regular basis. I can also state that it’s been going on for months now. It’s pretty clear that it’s street racing, and should be stopped.

Trevor knolls
30 days ago

City of Aurora, quit wasting everyone’s time. You as a city are more worried about political correctness than enforcing the law. You have tied the police departments hands and vilified the cops to the point they are hesitant to do any proactive police work. Now you want the police to step up and get this illegal street racing under control??? How are the cops supposed to stop this….Write tickets and send the racers on their way? Are you, as a worthless city government, that stupid and cannot see the big picture? City council Grow A Pair, and enact laws where the police can impound and then crush the racers’ cars. If you need help getting out of your timid coward shells, talk to Denver PD on the process of creating public nuisance ordinances to do just this type of enforcement. Sorry, you coward council members, sometimes police work isn’t pretty, and you can’t use reason or logic to deal with some members of society. Only way to deal with some criminal element is by taking away their tools of criminal activity.