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Police Shut Down
Ontario Street Racing

Published Thursday, May 4, 2000 in THE DAILY BULLETIN

By David Seaton Staff Writer




ONTARIO -- Weary of playing cat and mouse with illegal street racers and their fans, police say they have finally built the perfect trap.

Police were given permission by the City Council this week to shut down five industrial streets in eastern Ontario between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The roads turn into illegal drag strips that draw hundreds of fans and foster crime from graffiti to murder, police claim. Violators caught on the closed roads face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

This move comes a month after the council passed an anti-cruising ordinance meant to disrupt racers and their fans who parade their cars near Ontario Mills before sneaking off into the industrial areas after midnight.

Police also have tried to arrest fans for unlawful assembly but a judge said that law did not apply.

"In the last few years it's gotten out control," said Officer Robb McCandlish. "These kids think the streets belong to them, and they have no remorse for what they do."

The innovative program will start this weekend when police pass out warning fliers to crowds on the streets to be closed. Police then plan to post 40 to 50 signs on the designated streets before they enforce the law.

Racers mock police efforts over the Internet and delight in running from them, said Mario Campos, a former drag racer. But police warn not to question their resolve.

"Where they go, we will go until it's solved," McCandlish said.

Other cities, including Fontana, are waiting to see if the street closing offensive works.

"If it comes to the point where illegal racing is that bad, I'm sure we would consider it," Fontana Mayor David Eshleman said.

The warehouse district that straddles Ontario, Fontana and Riverside County has become an inviting venue for illegal street racers. The long stretches of empty asphalt allow drivers to reach 100 mph or faster.

Fontana Officer Michael Clay said authorities chase crowds between those jurisdictions like a game of tag. Fontana plans to install speed humps to scuttle racers - a tool Ontario has used with some success, officials said.

Eshleman said the region needs a legal drag strip, especially after the Pomona Raceway eliminates its street-legal races in 2001. A proposal in Rialto calls for a legal drag strip at the Rialto Municipal Airport.

"They need an alternative venue," said Campos, 24, who had his car and license taken for racing illegally last year. "There's no place to go."

Campos agreed with police that today's races are no longer the innocent rite of passage made popular in the movie "American Graffiti."

"It's not so much the racing," he said. "It's the partying and drinking now. Everybody has fun running away from police."

Police associate the races with graffiti, looting, burglaries, even murder. A staff report requesting the emergency ordinance says two area killings occurred over racing debts. Police last year received 435 calls for service near the targeted streets.

The council unanimously approved the street closure program.

"They're so orchestrated and they move so fast," Councilman Jerry DuBois said. "The string of cars is unbelievable unless you see it."

The city is using a section of the state vehicle code that allows authorities to shut down public streets that are the site of repeated criminal activity.

"I believe it very clearly is going to pass constitutional muster," City Attorney John Brown said.

Business owners support the road closures because of the vandalism, litter and disruption to their businesses. Some trucks must alternative warehouse entrances. Employees must show identification to use the closed streets, McCandlish said.

"Those folks with legitimate business in the area won't be affected by this ordinance," said police Chief Lloyd Scharf.

"If you feel generous and have a used car you don't utilize, donate your car to a charity."


Police Arrest
Sun Valley Street Racers

Reprint from The Daily News - 1/15/2001
By Joseph Giordono Staff Writer

SUN VALLEY -- The roar of engines and the screeching of rubber on the road were replaced by the wail of sirens and cries of unsuspecting street racers early Sunday morning, as the Los Angeles police and three other agencies swept in for another attempt at shutting down the popular illegal activity. When the smoke and dust cleared, at least a half-dozen racers and other participants had been carted off to jail, and 72 cars were impounded thanks to a new enforcement tool.

Working with City Council members, police in the Northeast Valley have begun marking the curbs of popular racing streets as no-stopping zones -- in effect allowing them to impound every car that was trapped when the officers moved into position.

"They won't be so loud when they realize that they aren't going home with their vehicles tonight," said officer Ron Walker, who led the task force made up of LAPD, California Highway Patrol, state emissions inspectors and auto theft detectives.

Saturday night, the target was a milelong strip of Glenoaks Boulevard between Peoria and Sheldon streets in the Sun Valley area.

The long, flat strip is just one of many popular racing streets in the Valley.

Almost a dozen police cruisers had staked out the area, patiently waiting on side streets to box in both ends of the street and snare as many violators as possible.

Plainclothes officers had walked among the racers all evening, keeping police apprised of how many cars and participants were gathering at the northeast San Fernando Valley hot spot.

Earlier in the evening, a lone squad car had driven right through the scene, scattering the racers and threatening to ruin the stakeout.

But by around 12:30 a.m., the racers were back in force, and the plainclothes officers called in the go-ahead via cell phone.

Though the plan did not quite work to perfection -- almost half of the racers and bystanders escaped either in their cars or on foot -- the stakeout managed to snare almost 100 vehicles and scores of people.

Officials searched every car, processed every person and wrote tickets for every vehicle code violation.

Racers and curfew violators were carted to the Foothill police station in large vans. Then, thanks to the newly posted no-stopping-zone signs, police towed every parked vehicle to an impound lot.

Officers made one felony arrest for weapons possession, issued six misdemeanor citations for racing and 25 citations for curfew violations. They issued 20 citations for illegal modifications and impounded 72 vehicles.

"This is crazy, man. I had seen these things go down before, but I never thought that they could take everyone's cars like that," said James Martinez of San Fernando, who said he was there to watch the races.

"I don't see how they're going to prove how each car was stopped in the zone, but it don't matter since they're towing them all anyhow."

Several other carloads of young people blasted loud music and shouted for officers to hurry up and give them their tickets, unaware that their vehicles would end up being towed.

Their bravado quickly waned when they saw their vehicles loaded onto the flatbed tow trucks carting off two vehicles at a time.

For the luckiest, the night cost $200 in impound fees and parking violations.

For others, who have poured thousands into modifying their cars for speed, it was much more costly.

Members of the state Bureau of Automotive Repair popped every hood and slid under every car to check for modified or missing pollution control devices.

Detectives checked engine parts to see if they matched up with stolen vehicle records.

"The most common thing is for them to remove their catalytic converters, but we have seen everything up to nitrous oxide systems on these cars," said John Nelson, one of the bureau's inspectors.

"They put thousands into the modifications, but once we cite them, they have to spend just as much to put them back to normal."

The tickets require the vehicle's owner to replace all modifications with factory-direct parts, and prove that they have done so to a third-party referee.

To the racers, the crackdowns are unduly harsh.

"It's not like we're out here doing drugs or shooting at one another. We're just out here to have fun," said one 17-year-old who did not want to give his name.

But officers disagree. Since 1995, they say, almost two dozen people have died in illegal street racing incidents. One of the most recent fatalities was George Bekerian, a 26-year-old Van Nuys man who in November smashed into a car and a power pole while trying to race on Coldwater Canyon Avenue, officials said.

A couple of years back, an 18-month-old girl was killed in a car while her young father watched the races.

"These are not skilled drivers by any means, and the danger is pretty high, " Walker said.

Walker said the undercover operations have been used primarily during summer months, when the racing really heats up. But this weekend's stakeout was, as much as anything, to let the racers know the police are out there.

The gatherings have been a problem for almost 30 years, Walker said, stretching back to when movies such as "American Graffiti" popularized the activity.

The showmanship and revelry are a strong lure for young people, Walker said, despite the risk of arrest or worse.

But now other, nonpolice agencies are joining the fight.

Along for the ride Saturday night was a representative of a consortium of major auto companies, race sanctioning bodies and parts manufacturers which is starting a program to try to divert people from illegal street racing into sanctioned races. Racers Against Street Racing hopes to be active soon and will try to recruit top professional drivers and former illegal street racers to the cause.

But for some of the participants, even having their cars impounded and being slapped with hundreds of dollars in fines won't deter them.

"You know how it is," said a 25-year-old Sylmar man whose car was impounded. "The crowd is just going to get together at a different spot next week and will try to keep a better lookout. Tonight was just the wrong place at the wrong time."

The Chatsworth Street Racing Scene

Every Tuesday Night in Chatsworth everyone meets up at the Sizzler and gets ready for the races.

All types of cars from imports to muscle cars to exotics or even mom or dads van meet up to go to the races.

At around 11 pm. everyone moves out befor the Police show up to give out cerfew tickets... they all cruis down to Canoga and Plummer in an indrusturial area with a perfect quarter mile area.

There have been a couple of big busts in the last couple of months that were on the news, latley what the police have been doing here is bringing in semi trucks and fire trucks to block of both sides of the streets,the races often get as big as 100 to 150 people at once. By Anonymous

Raceway a safe place to get a move on!

Reprint from the Los Angeles Daily News 8/15/2001
By Aaron Levine
Staff Writer

PALMADALE- Littlerock's Ernie Narez sat in his 1990 Acura Integra, anticipating the green light.

The 19-year-old revved his engine, the roar of his motor drowning the sound of the wind blowing across the Antelope Valley.

But Narez was not worried about being caught by the police. He wasn't afraid that it is illegal to drag race on public streets. And although Narez doesn't race often, he was not concerned about injuries.

He didn't have to be.

Narez was at the L.A. County Raceway in Palmdale, where driving fast is legal and medical assistance is close at hand.

"It's just a rush to go so fast," Narez said, smiling, after he went down the quarter-mile track.

When novices such as Narez or race aficionados arrive at this safe haven, located in a remote area off Avenue T, they can drive their vehicles as fast and as many times as they want -- legally.

"A $15 entry fee, as opposed to a $300 ticket for illegal drag racing plus a $600 impound fee for your car, is huge," said Narez, who said he attended a couple of illegal races in the past.

On this Friday, called "Friday Night Grudge," Narez was with three friends talking, laughing and comparing car parts before taking the track. The four locals were among about 150 drivers who rolled through the gates between 5:30 and 10 p.m. The drivers' ages ranged from 16 to 65, although most were in their late teens and 20s. They came from as far south as Long Beach and as far west as the Conejo Valley.

"It's a hassle, but it's worth it," said 19-year-old Ryan Alcantra of Newbury Park. "It took us an hour and 15 minutes to get here. With all the preparation time, it's more like a day-long event."

"Friday Night Grudge," which started in 1982, is the most popular weekly event at the LACR, where anyone can race or merely test the speed of their cars.

"Everybody has fun here. You can even bring your family out and have them sit in the bleachers to watch," 21-year-old Manuel Aldaba said.

And although most drivers at Friday's races are intermediate to advanced, a new program on Wednesday night, called "Street Legal," has attracted novice racers. The program started in April and is designed to keep older teen-agers off the street.

It appears to be working. Roll call has grown from 30 cars on the first night of "Street Legal" to an average of 80 cars. Last week, 112 cars showed up. Track manager Bernie Longjohn estimated that up to 85 percent of the vehicles on Wednesdays are driven by 20-year-olds and younger.

"A lot of cars that would be messing around are instead here getting their thrills," said Los Angeles deputy sheriff Scott Graham, who talks to young adults about the perils of drugs, gangs and street racing.

"It's a win-win situation. It doesn't create a problem for the residents driving around, and it gives the automotive enthusiasts a place to go to test their skills and test the performance of their cars."

Graham, 38, not only races his car at LACR on Friday nights, he also challenges the four winners of the Wednesday night program at the end of each month.

"Everybody would love to beat a cop or to race a cop and not get a ticket," Graham said.

Of course, first-time drivers may wonder how their car could compete with a race car such as Graham's. The answer is called bracket racing, which, like a handicap in golf, levels the playing field.

In bracket racing, all cars first go through trial runs to attain an average or "dial-in" time. When a race takes place, the car that has a dial-in time slower than its opponent receives a head start. For example, if a 15-second car races a 10-second car, the 15-second vehicle will get a five-second head start.

"Theoretically, they'll both get to the finish line at the same time. But the difference is your ability to react at the starting line. If I leave a millisecond after my light turns green and you leave one hundredth of a second after your light turns green, I have an advantage, regardless of what car I'm driving," Longjohn said.

Most tournaments at LACR use bracket races, which also takes money out of the equation. People spending thousands of dollars for an engine have no more of an advantage than the average car.

"You can still beat any guy because you're a better driver," said Ali Anshar, the 28-year-old owner of Easy Street Motor Sports in Sherman Oaks.

Anshar said because of bracket racing, he won the championship at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma as a teen-ager three years in a row, despite driving a 14-second Camaro.

It also means that a variety of cars show up on Wednesday and Friday nights, ranging from hot rods to Volkswagens, souped-up Chevys to stock pickup trucks.

"I've even seen minivans and diesel trucks," said Palmdale's Ryan Trapp, 20, who has come to LACR about 10 times.

Added Longjohn: "The best part is that whether you drive the car or I drive it, a man or a woman, a 16-year-old or a 65-year old, the car does not know who is driving it, so that's the great equalizer. Therefore, anyone can compete in drag racing."


According to the Palmdale Police Department, there has not been a major problem with illegal street racing in the Antelope Valley in recent memory.

"That's because they have a local track," Graham said. "Before the Terminal Island Racetrack in Long Beach was shut down, street racing was all but eliminated down there too, because it was a centrally located track."

Terminal Island closed three years ago, leaving raceways in Palmdale, Bakersfield and Carlsbad, along with one at the L.A. Fairgrounds in Pomona, as the only other options.

"We need more tracks," Anshar said. "At least this is here. If it wasn't, kids would get hurt racing illegally somewhere else."

Moreno Valley mayor Bill Batey, who makes the weekly trek to LACR to race his 1973 Camaro, said that not enough is being done to accommodate the growing hobby.

"You see skateboard parks being made, but we tend to forget the kids who are driving their 3,000-pound cars," Batey said.

"There's a problem with illegal racing in every town -- it's a matter of (getting) the elected officials to admit it. Without a doubt, it's a problem in my city, and with the lack of track availability, it's only going to get worse."

Batey, who also is captain of the Riverside City Fire Department, vividly remembers an incident where a 1965 Chevy Nova was wrapped around a pole as a result of an illegal race.

"It's only a matter of time where we have another tragedy like that,"Batey said.


According to Longjohn, LACR has one of the lowest injury rates in the country because of the immediate medical attention provided and the safety inspections for all cars. Inspections include a brake check and making sure the car battery is tied properly.

Longjohn estimated that an average of two to three people are injured every year.

"If you're racing down an ordinary street and you hit a pole, you're in serious trouble," Longjohn said. "Here, the worst you can do is hit a guardrail and 1,000 feet from you is a fire truck and an ambulance waiting to help."

Longjohn also said parents don't need to be concerned about the environment.

The notion of violence, helped by movies such as "Rebel Without a Cause" and "The Fast and the Furious," is not true at LACR.

"They know that we're not going to put up with fighting," said Longjohn, who added there has been one scuffle this year and it was quickly broken up. "The guys at the gates are real cops and they will arrest you. People that fight know they won't be allowed to race here again."

Most of the crimes reported in the past have been related to the stealing of equipment, but since the raceway has prohibited spectators from going into the pit area, the problem has abated.


When 61-year-old James Squires and his 58-year-old wife, Marie, first drove into the gates with their red and white Ford Lightnings, a few younger drivers smirked.

Their grins didn't last long.

"Once we go through the lines, they all know that we're dead serious," James Squires said. "It gives us older people a charge to know that we can keep up with people like that."

Marie Squires has won 11 trophies and James seven.

The two "grandparents" of the raceway have been regulars at Wednesday and Friday nights for the past two years. On most nights, James will come straight from his job at the L.A. Department of Water and Power to meet Marie, who brings dinner to the track before they race.

According to James Squires, the only reason the two might miss a night is to play in a bingo tournament.

The Squires should serve as a lesson to anyone who may feel self-conscious about driving against people half their age.

Said James Squires: "When I'm out there, I feel that I'm as young as anyone else."

It Happens All Over The U.S.

I live in Sioux City Iowa and attended illegal street races.Yes I did race but not anymore, not after seeing what I saw.

Now incase you didn't know a popular place to race is on a long industrial road where their are train tracks. The usually mark the end of the race or the beganing. I have seen this in many citys before.

Ok,now what happened was a 66" Impalla was racing down the strip and broke his U-joint and droped his drive shaft at the end of the race. Im not sure if he knew he did but it didn't look like he did. Just as they hit the train tracks the drve shaft caught one of the rails and threw the car out of controlcausing him to hit the other car he was racing. Neither of them were injured but could of been injured very badly. Even though I drive a front wheel drive car and don't have a drive shaft I still won't race, just because that made me think,what if somthing were to happen,theres no one around and it would take an ambulance at least 20 minuts to get to where we race at.
And thats somthing a lot of racers shoudl think about before they do it. But at least if your going to do it,make sure you buckle up or even carry a fire exstiguisher like some out there did, my self included.

Street race turns deadly in Dana Point

Reprint From The Orange County Register November 28, 2001

DANA POINT -- Jeanne Bridges was delighted when her son came into Tommy's, the San Clemente restaurant where she works. Though they're close, the late afternoon visit from Raymond Scott Shelly on Monday was unusual.
"For some strange reason, he came in for dinner, and I waited on him while he happily sat reading the paper," said Bridges, 60, of San Clemente. "He was my right arm and the best son I could ever ask for." It was the last time Bridges would see him alive.
Shelly, 40, of San Clemente, was killed four hours later when his green Dodge Caravan was propelled 120 feet and set ablaze after being hit by a yellow Mustang that was racing a black Mustang on a busy street in Dana Point, authorities said.
His friend and passenger, Jose Valverde of Dana Point, also was killed. Authorities did not release the names, but family members confirmed the identities.
Erin Gormley, 18, of San Clemente was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, police said. She was released on $50,000 bail Tuesday afternoon after a night at the Orange County Women's Jail. Gormley and a 17-year-old female passenger in a yellow Mustang convertible were racing with a black Mustang about 9:40 p.m. on Del Obispo Street, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said. As they rounded a curb near Quail Run, a minivan pulled out and Gormley struck the van on the passenger side, Amormino said. The impact flipped the van on its side, and it caught fire. Neighbors tried to help the van's passengers escape but were beaten back by the flames. The two men died at the scene. Gormley, a San Clemente High School graduate, and her passenger were treated for moderate injuries at Mission Hospital, including a fractured foot Gormley suffered during the crash, and released. Gormley's family declined to comment. Amormino said police are searching for the black Mustang, which sped off after the crash.
The accident follows the death of 16-year-old Steven Katzenberger, killed in September when his Mitsubishi Eclipse slammed into a tree during a street race on Camino del Avion in Laguna Niguel. And Jose Estrada and his 6-year-old daughter Michelle were killed on Flower Street in Santa Ana when they were hit head-on by a street racer in August.
Amormino said it's unusual that a female driver was involved.
Dana Hills High student Ashley Daugherty, 17, said street racing among teens is more common than people think. "I think it's horrible, and we've all tried to get our friends to stop racing," Daugherty said. "It's mostly the boys, not girls, that do it. I know a lot of boys do." The problem, authorities say, is that street racing is glamorized by everything from this summer's release of the movie "The Fast and the Furious" to car clubs centered around tricked-up subcompact import cars made to be lighter, faster and visually attractive.
"We have not had a lot come to our attention of late, but at one time it (street racing) was a problem - right after that movie came out," said Lt. Sam Allevato of the Irvine Police Department. "But it's seemed to trail off for us." The Irvine department formed a task force about eight months ago to deal with organized street racing in the east industrial area of Irvine after arresting teens street racing late at night, he said. Since then, and as word of the task force spread, the problem has lessened, he said.
Professional race-car driver and instructor Carl McGinn of Driving Concepts International in Monarch Beach said most people don't have the skills to deal with high-speed driving. "It's one of those issues when you get alcohol involved, kids are more inclined to be competitive, and when you have two cars of the same make, they become more competitive," he said. "I would imagine that's what happened."
Tanya Schwied, 17, said the competition wasn't worth it. "You hear about it and how it's fun, especially if a guy wants to show off his new car," she said. "But there's other ways to prove your masculinity than putting others at risk. And I guess that works for guys - and girls."
Bridges, the mother who lost her son this week, took a candle and a cross to the accident site Tuesday night, adding to the flowers that some had put up during the day. "I want to put these things up to warn other drivers that are trying to drag down the street," she said. "Maybe it might make people stop and think before they do any more of this craziness. "Scotty is the third son that I've lost," she said, tearfully referring to her 5-year-old son and infant who died years ago. Bridges said she was informed of her son's death Tuesday morning. Bridges said he was named after his grandfather - who was killed by a drunken driver. She said Shelly told her before leaving the restaurant Monday that he was going to pick up Valverde and go riding around for a while. Shelly was a talented sous chef who aspired for a job on a cruise ship and had just gotten his passport, Bridges said. In the meantime, he was working as a maintenance manager at the San Clemente Inn and spent his free time tutoring children. He was single and had no children.
Jenny Valverde, 19, daughter of Jose Valverde, said she awoke Tuesday morning to the news of his death. She said he is also survived by his wife, Hildi, and son Nick, 16.

Register staff writer Jessica Peralta and news researcher Eugene Balk contributed to this report.

Youths, Cops in Raceway Program

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press March 18, 2002.
By RYAN CHADDICK Special to The Valley Press

Picture By Jim (Jake) Jacobson - Sierra Auto Body

PALMDALE - Under normal circumstances, having a police car follow you at high speeds with red and blue lights flashing is a problem. Not so for Desert Winds High School graduate Jake Sorensen, at least not on a recent Friday afternoon.
On that day, Sorensen raced Detective Steve Crowell of the Los Angeles Police School Association in a demonstration race supporting the legal racing organization West Coast Super Cops at the Los Angeles County Raceway. It wasn't so long ago that police cars were a fairly common sight in Sorensen's rear-view mirror. The continuation school graduate said he was a "screw-up" until he moved to Desert Winds three years ago and met auto technology teacher Dave Otis.
Otis purchased a 1969 Chevrolet Nova several years ago and donated it to Desert Winds because, he said, he wanted to start a project that would help build his students' lives.
Having the car to work on altered Sorensen's life.
"(Building) this car got my head straight," Sorensen said. "Most guys who put this car together were misfits in other schools. This project has helped a lot of us."
Otis spoke highly of all his students.
"This is an educational process," Otis said. "It's exciting to see these young men develop.
"The students have done (the majority) of the work," he added. "They stripped the car down to almost nothing and completely rebuilt it to meet the National Hot Rod Racing Association regulations."
The Nova's paint job was donated by Sierra Auto Body shop.
Sorensen is the first student to race the Nova on the quarter-mile track at the raceway. He beat the police car he was racing with a 12.93-second finish.
This is the kind of story the West Coast Super Cops love to hear.
"As a result of all the street racing deaths, (many police departments from Southern California) have gotten together to form the West Coast Super Cops," said Officer Thomas Gibby of the Monterey Park Police Department. "Our mission is to meet kids and tell them of the dangers of illegal street racing," Gibby said. "This track is a drug- and alcohol-free place to be."
The Los Angeles County Raceway - an NHRA championship drag strip on Avenue T just east of 70th Street East - was set up to do just that - keep kids off the streets.
Owner Bernie Longjohn said he is trying to keep kids interested in something other than illegal street racing. "We have a program with Los Angeles police departments trying to keep kids racing in a safe environment," Longjohn said.
"We give police departments free tickets (to race on the LACR track)," said Longjohn. "They give the tickets to kids to show them a place where they can race legally and safe." Many feel the program is working.
Said Sorensen: "This is a place that is cheap ($10) and legal to race."
Another Desert Winds graduate, Mike Azeuedo, said LACR provides great entertainment. "You can race a cop and not get into trouble," Azeuedo said.
The raceway is open to young adults interested in racing from 5 to 10 p.m. each Wednesday and Friday night. According to Longjohn, 600 to 800 participants typically come to race or watch.
LACR also has a Web site http://www.lacr.net/ on which more information about events and outings is posted.

Marissa's Story

Hello my name is Marissa Vargas. I am writing to let people hear my story, maybe to show people that street racing should not be tolerated. Some would say that as long as they're responsible
enough and have the right driving skills that it's ok. Or if they are on a clear road! Well none of these matter when it really comes down to it. From my experience I would know! So here's my story about why I'm against street racing!
There was once a time when I was all for street racing. Well night I decided to race, thinking it was ok! I mean there weren't any cars around, just me and my opponent. I figured: "what's one race??".
This one race has definitely changed my mind forever about street racing. I was on the starting line getting ready. I was in my civic hatchback with three friends of my friends. I had been doing this for awhile now and didn't really think anything of it.
So there we are and we take off full speed, almost at the end of the road, I'm hitting 110mph when my friend yells at me to slow down. Not being an experienced enough racer, I hit the brakes, my front wheels lock and my car slides all the way around
facing the opposite way and goes flying off a twenty foot cliff. The results of this one little street race was having my car impounded, totaled I might add, me having to go to court with two misdemeanors, also facing a charge of reckless driving which
here in Ventura County is automatic jail time. Also the injuries of my friends that were with me, one with a broken rib and 25 stitches to his left arm, the other with a broken collar bone, the other with a concussion, and me with permanent damage to my left shoulder.
All of this could have been prevented if I would have just taken it to the track. I used to be that person who ignored all of the street racing warnings up until this moment. This is my story....my advice to all the racers out there! KEEP IT AT THE TRACK!!
If you'd like to get a hold of me or have any more questions you may e-mail me at issa_celicagurl8@yahoo.com

Drag-race watchers could be cited
Re-Print Antelope Valley Press December 29, 2003.
By BOB WILSON - Valley Press Staff Writer

PALMDALE - People who congregate on streets and roadways to watch illegal drag races could be ticketed and penalized under an ordinance before the City Council.
The council already has given the new regulation the first of two required approvals.
The vote for final approval is expected to come Jan. 14.
If adopted, the ordinance would give Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies the authority to issue tickets for either infractions or misdemeanor violations, said Cesar Bertaud, the city's assistant city attorney.
Those found guilty of infractions may be fined $100 or the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense, Bertaud said.

Those found guilty of misdemeanor violations may be fined up to a maximum or $1,000 or sentenced up to a maximum of one year in county jail, he said.

At some point, under another ordinance yet to be brought forward, the vehicles of spectators who gather to witness drag races might be subjected to impoundment or forfeiture, Bertaud said.

For now, and to get the ordinance on the books, the city would impose only the typical penalties available, he said.
The ordinance was considered late during the council's Dec. 10 meeting.
At the time, only a newspaper reporter and one member of the public were in attendance, and the proposal drew no public comment.

The proposal was approved 4-0 in the absence of Mayor Pro Tem Mike Dispenza.
As approved, the ordinance would make it illegal for any person to "be knowingly present as a spectator at any illegal motor-vehicle speed contest or exhibition of speed conducted on a public street or highway."

The ordinance defined a spectator as "any person who is present … for the purpose of viewing, observing, watching or
witnessing the event as it progresses." A spectator would be "any person at the location of the (racing) event without regard to whether the person arrived at the event by driving a vehicle, riding as a passenger in a vehicle, walking or arriving by some other means," the proposal showed.

A person would be considered present at an illegal speed contest if he or she "is within 150 feet of the location of the event, or within 150 feet of the street or highway where preparations are being made for the event."

Preparations for an illegal speed contest included situations where people: had arrived as a group at a predetermined location to an event; were lined up on one or both sides of a street or highway to watch an event; had impeded the free public use of a street or highway by actions, words or physical barrier for the purpose of conducting an event; were in a vicinity where two or more vehicles had lined up with motors running to participate in an event.

Driver, 18, fatally injured in fiery street-racing crash Second motorist arrested after summoning police.

Re-Print Los Angeles Daily News Wednesday, September 01, 2004
By Jason Kandel - Staff Writer

WOODLAND HILLS -- Just one day before his 19th birthday, a Van Nuys man was fatally injured during a street race early Wednesday when he lost control of his car, which slammed into a tree and ricocheted off two parked cars that burst into flames. Aram Aleksanyan, who worked at Fry's Electronics in Woodland Hills, was involved in the crash on Victory Boulevard near Friar Street. Police officers pulled him out of his mangled Acura Legend as flames closed in around his car. He was taken to an area hospital where he died about 2 a.m.

The crash saddened and frustrated local law enforcement officials, who have been working diligently to halt the rising trend of traffic fatalities in the Valley.

"Here again we've had another senseless death on the streets of the San Fernando Valley," said LAPD Deputy Chief Ronald Bergmann, who heads the Valley Bureau. "When is it going to stop? People need to drive like their life depends on it because it does."

The man who was racing Aleksanyan, Louis Blaine Rodgers, 24, of Reseda, stopped his car after the crash, went back to the scene and summoned police from his cell phone. Rodgers had been drinking at a Woodland Hills eatery just before the crash, said Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Greg Meyer, who supervises the Valley Traffic Division. Rodgers was booked into the Van Nuys Jail on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and driving under the influence. His bail was set at $100,000.

Police believe that the men, who did not know each other, began racing at the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Mason Avenue, heading east at 70 mph through a narrow S-curve at Topham Street where Aleksanyan lost control of his vehicle. Residents ran to the fiery scene and Kima Eslami, 40, grabbed his digital video camera. "Fire was very close," said Eslami, who dropped his camera to help when he realized someone was inside the wreckage. "Nobody could get close to the car. We were trying to help him, but we could not take him out. We waited for the LAPD." Officials used the death as a rallying cry for additional traffic patrols in the Valley, which historically outpaces the rest of the city in traffic crashes because of its long, straight streets.

And while police have effectively cracked down on organized street racing events, in which hundreds of spectators come to watch, they acknowledge that spontaneous racing events are difficult to police. "They meet at a red light. They eyeball each other. They gun their engines. They go for it," Meyer said. "Sometimes there's a police officer around. We catch one or both of them. We put them in jail, and we take away their car for at least 30 days." City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel sponsored legislation that seizes the cars of racers and cites race spectators, but it has little effect over spontaneous races.

"We've made a big change in organized street racing," she said. "But today we're sending another message: One foolish choice and you will not only lose your car, you will lose your life." Wednesday's incident was the first death related to street racing in Los Angeles since last June when four people died in three crashes over a three-week period after the movie "Too Fast Too Furious" came out. On Monday, two 17-year-old boys were injured in a street race in the Orange County community of Laguna Niguel. One remains in extremely critical condition.

Overall, traffic-related deaths in the Valley have jumped 8 percent, totaling 65 so far this year, compared with 57 in the same period last year.

Aleksanyan had worked as a clerk in the computer accessories department at Fry's in Woodland Hills since April. He would have turned 19 today.

Fry's spokesman Manuel Valerio said the company was saddened by the loss, and for the associates he worked closely with in Woodland Hills. "We extend our sympathies to his family," Valerio said. "We are saddened that anyone would die like this at such a young age, and so tragically." City Councilman Dennis Zine, who represents the West Valley area, expressed frustration at the latest traffic-related death, and vowed to make a motion next week at a City Council meeting to ask Chief William Bratton for more traffic officers to be deployed to the Valley.

"There's no winners in this," Zine said. "The families are going to be losing. Law enforcement suffers another casualty. Our condolences to the family."

Sun Valley street race kills two.
Re-Print LA Times 10/05/04 - By Robert Chacon, News-Press

Counselors help students cope with loss of Village Christian classmates killed in La Tuna Canyon crash. SUN VALLEY — A Glendale teenager hurt in the alleged street race Friday was getting better Monday as Los Angeles detectives continued their search for the driver of a second vehicle involved in the crash.

The driver of one of the cars, Michael Lee, 17, was upgraded from critical to fair condition at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, authorities said. He underwent emergency brain surgery after the Friday afternoon crash on La Tuna Canyon Road that left two passengers in his car dead. All three attended Village Christian School in Sun Valley.

The passengers in Lee's car who died were Christopher Oliver, 17, of La Crescenta and Nicholas Roth, 17, of Granada Hills.

Los Angeles Police detectives are still searching for the driver of a Ford F-150 truck that witnesses say was racing against the car that Lee was driving, Det. William Bustos said, adding that police have not identified the driver.

"We are in the process of trying to determine exactly what happened, if there was a crime," he said. "We are interviewing witnesses who saw what happened."

If the investigation concludes that both drivers were involved in an illegal street race, drivers of both vehicles will be arrested for manslaughter, Bustos said.

The mood at Village Christian School was solemn Monday, school officials said.

"Our students are saddened, sober and prayerful," Director of Admissions Patricia Smart said.

Close to 40 counselors from the school, the Los Angeles Department of Health, and private counselors who volunteered, were on campus Monday to help students deal with the deaths of their classmates.

"They are giving students the opportunity to talk and to process what happened, to share memories and emotions, and the faculty is doing the same in the class," said Susan Odekerken, a school employee who helped coordinate the crisis response.

Michael and Nicholas were on Village Christian's varsity football team. The school canceled Friday night's game. A memorial for Christopher and Nicholas had formed at the entrance to the boy's locker room Monday.

The football team came together for practice Monday.

"When we got together today at 3 o'clock, I told the guys, 'As tough as it is, we have to get back to our normal routine.' We talked about what those guys would have wanted and how we would honor that," Coach Marty Martin said. "The players will wear a sticker with the number 54 on the back of their helmets for Nick, and a CO for Chris. He was not part of our team, but he was part of our family."

Street Racing Kills A Deadly Game
Street racing is fast-growing in the Southland. Too often, it can be fatal.
By John Lehrer

Young men and fast cars were an integral part of the American automotive landscape long before Bruce Springsteen first sang "Racing in the Street" nearly 30 years ago. The hot rods of the post–World War II era, coming-of-age movies such as Rebel Without a Cause and American Graffiti, and 1960s muscle cars such as the Dodge Charger and Pontiac GTO all claim a revered place in American popular culture. Tonight, tonight, the highway's bright Out of our way, mister, you best keep 'Cause summer's here and the time is right For goin' racin' in the street. — Bruce Springsteen, "Racing in the Street"

But today's street-racing scene is far different. It's darker, more frenetic, and more dangerous, and it's not likely to be recalled nostalgically three decades from now. Law-enforcement agents agree that street racing is a growing problem throughout the nation, and especially in Southern California. Locally, a culture has developed around these illegal and sometimes impromptu races on freeways, city streets, and country roads. It's fueled today not only by high-octane gasoline and nitrous oxide, but also by the $29-billion-a-year aftermarket parts industry, magazines such as Import Tuner and Sport Compact Car, movies such as The Fast and the Furious, and depictions of high-speed racing in automakers' multimillion-dollar ad campaigns. For those who race and the unsuspecting motorists and bystanders who cross their paths, the result, all too often, is injury and death. Street racing affects communities differently, and local law-enforcement agents respond to it based on their training, previous experience, and available resources. In many Southern California communities, law-enforcement groups and private organizations have had to devise creative solutions to help put the brakes on this growing trend.

Photograph courtesy Los Angeles Police Department

What Parents Can Do
Parents can have a tremendous influence on their children's attitudes and driving behavior. Being aware of the dangers and appeal of street racing is just the first step. "Be involved with your kids," says officer Michelle Rodriguez, of the Los Angeles Police Department, who's worked to curtail street racing since 1996. "Even if they're good kids, you can't just let them go with the flow. There's a lot of peer pressure out there, and much of the media makes street racing look fun and glamorous." "Trust your sixth sense," says Detective Sergeant Greg Sloan of the San Diego Police Department's Drag-Net unit. "If your kid is swapping out tires every month or replacing engines, there's probably something going on. Level with your kid. Tell him or her that street racing is a crime with serious penalties, that because of the speeds involved and the number of people on the roadways, more people are dying than ever. And that if he or she is arrested, you, the parent, might be held responsible financially. "Ask your teenager, 'Do you really want to take the risk?' And maybe if you're persistent and you show them that you really love them and care about them, they'll come to the conclusion it's just not worth it."

Safety First
Encouraging safe, responsible driving in young people is a core Auto Club value. Toward that end, the Auto Club sponsors the California Speedway Team, which promotes respect for the automobile and safe driving and reinforces the message that racing belongs on the race track. In 2002, the Auto Club also backed SB 1489, which imposed serious penalties for drivers involved in speed contests; has participated in and moderated seminars on illegal street racing and forums on traffic safety with Southern California law-enforcement agencies; and has sponsored "Beat the Heat" events, legal alternatives to street racing, in conjunction with the Covina and Monterey Park police departments. — J.L.

Not Your Father's Drag Race
As in the past, the street-racing culture appeals mostly to young men ages 18 to 25, although young women are increasingly becoming interested. Its allure transcends regional, economic, racial, and ethnic boundaries. Instead of large American muscle cars, today's vehicles are mainly modified import sport compacts: Hondas, Acuras, Mitsubishis, and Subarus. The social context of street racing also has changed. "In the 1970s, 75 to 100 cars were out there at a time in San Diego," says Detective Sergeant Greg Sloan, who heads up the Drag-Net unit of the San Diego Police Department, the only team in the country devoted full-time to stopping street racing. "They'd race long straightaways, streets that weren't heavily used, mostly on weekends. They spent a lot of time socializing in parking lots with the hoods up, talking about their cars."
Today, law-enforcement agents say the number of cars and teenagers involved in some races in Southern California is in the hundreds — even more than a thousand on occasion. Participants focus more on racing than socializing. And some street races take place on highways and roads shared by innocent drivers. "In Ontario, there's been a call about street racing every weekend for the past five years," says Corporal John Duffield of the Ontario Police Department, who's worked since 1999 on the problem. "It's not unusual to see 200 or 300 cars on a road looking for a race."

Different Strokes
Law-enforcement agents have been implementing novel solutions to this evolving problem. San Diego had been suffering from increasingly bad street-racing problems for a decade when the California Office of Traffic Safety provided funding in 2001 for the Drag-Net unit, which uses a multifaceted approach to control the trend. For instance, instead of conducting a routine bust, the officers would videotape races, find out who owned the cars, then confront the kids and their parents at home. Officers educated city and county agencies, parents, and the judicial system, schools, and media, pushing for stronger street-racing laws. They also created alliances with groups that had developed alternatives to street racing, such as RaceLegal.com, which organizes about 30 Friday nights of legal drag racing per year in a parking lot at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium. Drag-Net's efforts to establish stiffer penalties have been largely successful. For example, San Diego and surrounding cities passed laws to make it illegal to even watch a street race; violators can be fined and do jail time.
Tougher laws mean bigger consequences for the racers. "We'll arrest them, fine them, take their licenses, and throw them in jail," Sloan says. "They'll get on the Internet and tell other racers, 'This isn't just a speeding ticket anymore. It's going to cost me 10 grand.' And that doesn't take into account the seven years of bad luck on their car insurance." The police also have been trained to identify illegal modifications to cars, such as certain exhaust systems, so they can arrest potential street racers in nonracing situations. And if a street race causes a death, "not only the driver who caused the collision but even the driver of the noncontact vehicle can be charged with murder," Sloan says. "It used to be manslaughter, which in practice is one to three years jail time. Now we're talking second-degree murder, which is 15 years to life." Because of this concerted community effort, the incidence of street racing and its attendant deaths and injuries are down significantly in San Diego, from eight deaths and 16 serious injuries in 2002 to zero deaths and four serious injuries in 2004. "This doesn't mean the problem is solved," Sloan says. "It takes continuous vigilance. You have to change the philosophy — to see street racing as a serious crime that has to be addressed through education, strict enforcement, and taking racing to the track. Otherwise, the problem is going to come right back."

Scared Straight
Gunnar Nettleship (pictured), 33, loves to drive fast. A service writer at an auto dealership in Los Angeles and a graphic designer, he's raced in Sports Car Club of America autocross events since 2002. But Nettleship's fast driving wasn't always legal. Here's his story. From my late teens through my early 20s, I was into street racing. We'd race on Pershing Drive, west of LAX. Sometimes we'd go canyon running: Around 3 a.m., we'd drive Mulholland Highway from Hollywood to Point Dume — boil brake fluid and ruin a set of brakes in a single night. Or we'd slide around corners at 60 mph or faster on huge, empty streets in downtown L.A. We did some stupid, dangerous things. I could easily have killed myself or somebody else. The last time I went canyon running, I lost it going into a corner and put the back end of my Acura over a 75-foot drop. The car stopped, hanging onto a thick shrub, and I crawled out the window. I still don't know why I didn't tumble over that drop. That scared me so bad, it made me slow down. Then, in November 2001, I went to Laguna Seca for track day and got the bug again. So I started looking for the cheapest legal way to race and discovered autocross, a race against the clock on a course set up in a big parking lot. The Street Touring class is a "run what you brung" kind of thing — you can drive any street-legal car. I did well at that, and then I started autocross in shifter-karts, go-karts with tiny motors and six-speed transmissions. This year, I'm going to the California Region Superschool to get my club racing license. I talk to a lot of kids who street race, and one difference I see between them and me at their age is that they think they're great drivers already, that all they have to do is spend the money and make their cars faster, and that's enough. They think they're immortal. But I've learned that no matter how good a driver you think you are, somebody else can make the mistake that gets you killed. So why risk your life? I drive on the street as safely as I can, and when I want to drive hard and fast, I go to the track. — Interview by John Lehrer
In Los Angeles, for example, the police can confiscate street racers' cars and eventually crush them. "We wanted to make a strong statement that L.A. would not tolerate street racing," says Michelle Rodriguez, senior lead officer for the Sun Valley area, Los Angeles Police Department Foothill Division, who's been involved with combating the problem since 1996. "To racers, their cars are everything. If you crush them, that sends a powerful message." Los Angeles has had success with other tough laws, too, including spectator laws (up to six months in jail, maximum fine of $1,000 plus a penalty assessment). Also, the Bureau of Automotive Repair has trained police to enforce laws dealing with illegal modifications to a car's engine and exhaust system. Ontario has had similar successes. "Our street racing is mostly the traditional one-eighth-mile or quarter-mile drag races," Duffield says. "Ordinances for street closures, a spectator law, and vehicle-seizure legislation have worked pretty well. At one large arrest in August 2003, for example, we detained 150 cars, arrested nine guys, and seized eight vehicles. And those are permanent seizures." Many experts agree, however, that enforcement alone isn't enough to turn the tide. "You have to offer an attractive legal option," says Stephen J. Bender, a recently retired San Diego State University professor of epidemiology and biostatistics who in 1998 founded San Diego–based RaceLegal.com. "We average 250 cars and 1,600 spectators per event," Bender says. "We make it as close to the street experience as possible, and we inspect the cars carefully. In 200 races and more than 300,000 passes down the strip, we've had only four minor crashes — and no injuries."

New Tricks
As authorities crack down on traditional street racing, racers have developed techniques that are more difficult to deal with, among them spontaneous highway racing. "One or more racers will cruise the highways late at night, flashing their accessory lights — a common sign they're looking for a race," says Sergeant Fred Furey, who runs the Regional Traffic and Auto Theft Bureau for the Orange County Sheriff's Department in Aliso Viejo. "Another racer will pull alongside, they'll give each other a sign, and the race is on. They'll zip in and out of traffic at high speeds, then maybe slow down and decide whether they want to race again. In some ways, it's scarier than drag racing, because a lot of innocent motorists get caught up in it." Regardless of the forms street racing may take in the future — and it's not likely to be eliminated entirely — government agencies and concerned individuals and organizations stand committed and prepared to counter it through law enforcement, education, and legal alternatives. "The mind-set of the kids doing this is that they're invincible, that nothing can hurt them," LAPD's Rodriguez says. "But we've seen what can happen. It's not that we want to be the bad guys. We just don't want these kids to wind up dead." John Lehrer is editor in chief of Westways magazine.

Dirty Little Secrets
Besides the carnage, street racing often involves theft and insurance fraud. "The interest in modifying vehicles is on the increase," says Mike Bender, an auto-theft and insurance-fraud specialist formerly with the Los Angeles Police Department and the National Insurance Crime Bureau. "Kids want their cars to look good and go fast, which means they have to modify them with expensive parts — wheels, exhaust systems, engine kits, spoilers, and so on. And if they take out a hood and front fender in a crash or blow an engine, they have to repair it." Sometimes the money for parts comes from indulgent, unassuming parents; sometimes it comes from a teenager's job. But sometimes the parts are stolen. Then there's insurance fraud: "A kid who wants a new look to his car might key his paint job, 'steal' his car's wheels, or slash his car's interior and report it to the insurance company as vandalism," Bender says. "Or if he needs to replace an engine, he might report the car stolen, and when it's recovered, blame the blown engine on the 'thief.'" Eventually, the money involved in theft and insurance fraud has an impact on the auto-insurance premiums of honest policyholders.

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