AURORA | Aurora police officially have a new tool to combat illegal street racing in the city.
City council members unanimously passed an ordinance last week that allows police to seize residents’ cars found to be repeatedly involved in street racing.
The measure permits a court to issue a temporary restraining order against any car owner or lien holder, stripping them of their vehicles if they’re found to be involved in a slew of traffic infractions, including vehicular eluding, obstructing a highway, reckless driving, engaging in a speed contest and trespassing, among others.
Authorities can then hold a resident’s car for up to one year while storage and tow fees accrue. If an owner fails to pay the fees within 60 days of a final court judgement, the vehicle could be deemed abandoned and destroyed.
But before such actions occur, police will notify owners that their cars have been involved in the aforementioned traffic infractions, giving them a chance to remedy the issue prior to any litigation.
Aurora police have been employing a similar tactic in recent months using an existing piece of city code that allows officials to send car owners a letter asking them to stop using their vehicle to drive recklessly, carelessly or in street races. If car owners are found to engage in such activity after receiving the letter, they could be slapped with fees or jail time.
Councilperson Francoise Bergan, who sponsored the new measure, said the effort is an attempt to remove a piece of the equation — cars — instead of relying solely on the threat of punishment.
“We wanted to make sure to draft this in a way that was not to be punitive, but to remedy or abate the vehicular nuisances,” she said.
City officials have said the vehicles are often used by teen drivers whose parents are unaware their cars are being used in street racing.
“Usually it’s a child that a parent has purchased the vehicle for,” Assistant City Attorney George Koumantakis said at a public meeting earlier this spring. “The initial remedy is to try to have the parent step in, and now they have an understanding that their vehicle is being used in this way. There’s a court process that this ordinance lays out and everybody will know what’s going on, and if that’s not done then the terms of the agreement will settle what happens next.”
Street racing has grown rapidly across the metroplex in the past year due in part to reduced traffic counts spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, officials have said.
Aurora residents reported 1,588 instances of street racing to local police in 2020, data show. There were just 66 such instances in 2019.
Authorities expect street racing calls to surpass the 2,000 mark this year.