Street Takeovers and Law Enforcement Strategies – Law Officer

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By Stephen Owsinski

Vehicular traffic comes with inherent dangers for anyone on the nation’s highways and byways. Accidents do happen. Yet some drivers are so self-centered and enamored by the sounds of revved engines and screeching tires that anyone near them, voluntary or not, is a potential casualty.

Have you noticed flagrant disregard and careless attitudes out there? One theory posited a spike in bad behavior stems from lockdowns that mandated people hibernate indoors and refrain from any mode of travel.

Unloosed in post-pandemic times, some people can easily be found running amok, sort of doing whatever they damn well please on public pavement, increasing the perils for everyone sharing the road and abiding by the signs—universal statutory markers to achieve order and stave off catastrophes.

Despite the rules and regulations of the roadways, we all know it isn’t gonna end up as a Utopian tale, though. Hence, traffic units deployed by all levels of law enforcement —city cops, county deputies, and state troopers— are the relative antidote.

Not so fast…

Even this aspect of conventional police work is hindered by the big bad boo-boos legislated by politicos who, moronically, felt it a great idea to bar cops from conducting traffic stops for a litany of reasons based on traditional public safety feats. Among other failed wheel reinventors, uninformed police reformers authoring policy based on emotion…was a catalyst for cops departing the police profession, thus whittling the ranks, leaving the remainder stretched even thinner.

One of the major epidemics I have seen trending lately is the “street takeovers” in cities across America. Have you gleaned any of these displays of lawlessness and motor mayhem?

Street takeovers are self-explanatory, consisting of throngs of exposed pedestrian spectators who meet at intersections and watch reckless drivers act out in the public domain, clog city streets, rev engines, burn rubber, create clouds of smoke from spinning tires in place (everyone contaminating their lungs with each inhalation), all to put on an unauthorized, highly perilous car show of sorts.

This spawned motorcyclists to partake in the same illegal concept. Then came ATVs. “Follow the leader” is not always a good look.

Besides the inherent dangers of souped-up engines powering dangerous tricks and 360s (donuts) and figure-eights in spaces encircled by pedestrians in harm’s way, watching the non-permitted car show holding hostage taxpayer-funded public property (impeding citizens), firearms have been part of the mix.

To address this, despite diluted ranks, police agencies have responded to these traffic antics with whatever resources they can muster. Here is a recent example of a street takeover that wound up with engulfed auto and barbaric behavior, leaving residents/merchants with heightening concerns due to a series of these outbreaks:

Notice the reporter touching upon the police bringing in “extra officers to deal with the illegal sideshows.” This one unfolded in Oakland, California, a city notorious for its “sanctuary” stance harboring illegal immigrants and local government significantly defunding its police force. Yes, they messed up. Indeed, we all figured this horrendous betrayal would result in ruin. No, they never apologize for brewing an unsafe environment.

On that note, it is pleasant to see the New York City Police Benevolent Association reminding citizens that their city council went ape over defunding the NYPD. Check out the roving billboard truck with an illuminated advertisement, portraying the names and images of elected reps who snubbed cops and ushered in anarchy to Gotham.

Similarly, Portland’s shrinking of law enforcement in the face of anarchy likely invited street takeovers as one of many consequences of defunding and defanging their police force.

Per a May 1, 2023 report published by OregonLive.com, “Portland police officers arrested five people and cited 25 more during a street racing sting Sunday night in North Portland.”

Just before midnight, “a group of racers took over” a large intersection, “speeding down the corridor and performing stunts for a few hours.

“The Police Bureau’s North Precinct and former members of the disbanded traffic division responded with a drone and a dog unit.”

The takeaways regarding that particular street takeover are telling: reckless drivers “performing stunts for a few hours” before officers from the “disbanded traffic division” intervened and dropped the hammer on the illegal car show.

The equation is quite simple and foreseeable: fewer cops equal more criminality.

We’ve also tallied fatalities from street takeovers, as depicted in the following brief video out of Compton, California:

Another fatality stemming from a street takeover took two lives; the Fort Worth PD posted its strategies to end these illegal events:

How does a law enforcement agency combat this brand of outrageous behavior and retake usurped streets with already depleted ranks? Portland cobbled together what it could and employed some equipment (drones record evidence and details such as auto license plates and pedestrian inciters; police canines help disperse crowds). Generally, though, mutual aid is the mainstay.

The police entity whose jurisdiction requires help reaches out to neighboring city and county law enforcement organizations and/or the state police, requesting reinforcements to get a handle on the matter as pronto as possible. Since most law enforcement agencies in America are considered small, with minimal resources, mutual aid is the option.

Larger agencies with a high concentration of police precincts, such as the NYPD spanning five boroughs (counties), cover sectors that neighbor each other. So, any street takeovers are dealt with by the precinct cops where the unsafe conditions are transpiring, aided by surrounding-area precinct squads, aka calling for reinforcements (the cavalry).

In that context, one way for cops to squash the street takeover fad and discourage further fanfare is to make arrests, issue citations, and impound the autos used in the illegal activity.

Street takeovers are so chronic in Los Angeles that the LAPD launched its Street Racing and Takeover Task Force:

The NYPD is fortunate enough to have an in-house wrecker service to respond and take lawful custody of cars, motorcycles, and ATVs…after each is identified as having been used in the commission of a crime.

Customarily, police departments and sheriff’s offices have formal arrangements with various wrecker services compiled on what is known as a rotation list. Upon request by an officer working a scene where a car is to be towed/impounded, a public safety dispatcher contacts the wrecker service atop the list, the next one in line moving up the list for the next police incident necessitating towing services.

Why do I throw in that tidbit? The towing fees are not nominal and signing all release forms is the sole responsibility of the registered owner, not just anyone they wish to send to retrieve their impounded auto(s).

Indeed, it is not a comfy process to get one’s vehicle out of impound. Perhaps that will dissuade others, discouraging street takeover involvement. Who knows?

In any event, this lawlessness, like many others, is another ridiculous drain on police resources. Nevertheless, cops strategize and respond as best possible, as usual.


This article originally appeared at the National Police Association

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