SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — San Jose Police have begun a major push to begin enforcement of the city’s new law that makes it illegal to attend a street race as a spectator.
Passed by the city council earlier this year, the law went into effect July 1.
Training sessions to brief patrol officers about the so-called “spectator ordinance” is ramping up, and the department released a public service announcement video this afternoon. The public awareness campaign comes amid increased digital chatter among the racers that seem to be knowledgeable of the new law.
“They’ve been warned already. Social media has been pretty active as far as the street racing community is concerned. So they are aware of it,” said San Jose Police Sgt. John Carr, head of the vehicle crimes unit and supervisor of the Racing Enforcement Detail, also known as RED.
SJPD released aerial footage of two street racing incidents in San Jose, one on Highway 101 and the other on Jackson Street. The footage shows lanes blocked off by a row of cars, with spectators using cell phones to record drivers spinning donuts also known as “slideouts.”
Before passage of the law, responding officers say the spectators often used their bodies to block patrol from entering the scene, knowing they will face little, if any, consequences. Oftentimes, the crowd, which can number in the hundreds, throw objects to damage the patrol cars.
“But sometimes it becomes violent and you start taking rocks and bottles, and so it is frustrating. But I’m hoping that now with this ordinance, that will put people on warning,” said Lt. Christina LaCap.
The ordinance makes it “unlawful for any person to be knowingly present as a spectator at a street race on a public street or highway…or where preparations are being made for a street race,” and applies to any pedestrian within 200 feet of the race or sideshow.
Carr says officers are being trained to be “judicious” in the enforcement of the law, taking care to distinguish between passersby and actual participants in the criminal activity.
“These are people that are actively in the roadway, actively videotaping, wearing the indicia of the street racing crews. Egging on the people that are doing the racing and the sideshow activity. Blocking in Traffic, putting up barricades. Various other activities that we can identify that can put them there at the scene,” said Carr.
Violation of the spectator ordinance is punishable by up to $1000 fine or six months in jail. The PSA produced by SJPD ends with the tagline “It’s not worth it.”
LaCap had a warning to spectators who may flaunt the new law.
“There’s always another day. We have ways of tracking people down, especially for egregious crimes. And just know that in another time, we will eventually catch up,” said LaCap.