SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose city council members on Tuesday unanimously passed a new ordinance that would make it illegal to be a spectator of a street race or sideshow.
“We know that spectators make the event,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “In the last four years, we’ve lost six young people to illegal street races; that is six too many.”
The law, which would goes into effect in 60 days, will make it a misdemeanor to be a spectator of a street race and could mean up to six months in jail. Spectators may also be issued a citation.
“But you’ve got to make sure that you’re going to be citing the proper people,” said Norcal Hobbies and Raceway owner Eric Vasutin. His business is right off 10th Street in San Jose, which is used frequently for drag racing.
Ironically, Vasutin races cars of a different type: radio-controlled cars. He said street races occur at all times of the day outside his business, including late at night when he holds races inside his own business for his customers. For him, leaving his business could mean life or death.
“There’s people trying to leave our parking lot to get onto 10th Street and they can’t, because they don’t know if there’s a car going to be driving by or not,” said Vasutin.
He said his customers wait until street racers leave the area before exiting his parking lot, which is why he said he’s worried the wrong people may be cited for being a spectator. Several council members also shared the same concern during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
“Are you spectator of it or are you just a concerned citizen or somebody wanting to just leave a parking lot?” asked Vasutin. “That’s the question.”
However, Police Chief Eddie Garcia reassured city leaders that officers would investigate the scene just like any other case. He said those who make themselves human barricades to block street so that side shows can occur, and people found within 200 feet of a side show or street will be identified as breaking the law.
The city council will come back in six months to review the impact of the law.