Street Racing is More Than… Just Donuts

I have the honor of serving as the Reno City Council-member for Ward 2.  Last Spring, I received a message from a terrified store owner who sent me a video of vehicles spinning donuts and tearing up the parking lot at the Reno Town Mall in Ward 2.  Hundreds of spectators were visible in the video. The man was afraid to leave his store.

Following the incident, I contacted the Reno Police Department. Over the next few months, I continued to discuss street racing deterrence options with them. In June, RPD initiated regional enforcement efforts, and I began posting how to report illegal street racing on social media and conversing with residents.

What I learned during this time was unsettling. Street racing and “sideshows” are a growing concern across America.  Sideshows are displays where drivers take over intersections or parking lots and attempt to show off their driving skills. While some consider these activities harmless — just “kids being kids” — most residents and police officers disagree.

Participating in and watching sideshows are both illegal and dangerous. Bullies can lock down areas and swarm an unsuspecting driver’s vehicle, attacking with spray paint, tire irons and more, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage and frightened drivers and families. Illegal fireworks may be launched posing a significant fire danger.  Spectators are urged to touch “spinning” cars which has resulted in injuries, including a local teen who was recently hospitalized after getting hit. Two local women were also hospitalized due to a crash while fleeing a sideshow. The noise is often deafening, disturbing the peace for miles.

When the intersection takeover on Veterans Parkway occurred in mid- September, I began interacting with residents through the NextDoor app and even went so far as to call commentors directly to get their input.  I then put together a series of recommendations to assist RPD and presented them to City Council. I called for a regional law enforcement Press Conference, more frequent use of the Sheriff’s RAVEN helicopter, new laws with greater penalties and impound times, and the formation of a standing task force, similar to one in Las Vegas, so that all our region’s law enforcement tools and personnel could be brought to bear.

The Sheriff immediately increased access to RAVEN and a regional Press Conference took place on October 6 during which Reno Police Chief Soto announced significant numbers of arrests, citations, and vehicle impoundments, and reiterated the City’s zero tolerance policy.  The Reno City Council recently approved investing $11.9 million in software and equipment to help our police officers track and arrest suspects for all types of crimes, including street racing. Additional staffing will be discussed during this year’s budget workshops and a Legislative package related to street racing is now being prepared.

The new measures will build on the significant public safety steps the City Council has taken over the last three years: adding 30-plus new police professionals, developing a new state-of-the-art Public Safety Center, and creating a new forensics team within RPD.

Today’s street racing is not just “kids being kids” and it’s a lot more than just “donuts.”  It’s one of the many complex public safety issues facing the City which require experience, collaboration, and a willingness to think “outside the box.”

I’m so grateful to our Reno Police Department and regional law enforcement partners for their hard work and innovative ideas, and to the City Council, City staff and residents for their support in addressing this issue. We will need that support —and more —to continue the momentum that we have built.  We get results by working together as a region – and results matter.

Naomi Duerr is the Reno City Councilmember for Ward 2 and is a Candidate for Re-election.