Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to street racing, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.
General Considerations for an Effective Strategy
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
1 Enlisting community support for addressing the problem Maximizes the community efforts by involving people as stakeholders …public officials, government agencies, insurance companies, business owners (including car parts stores), and citizens are involved in the effort Involvement of such individuals and entities are key to the success of responses that are employed
2 Educating and warning street racers Informs the street racers about the nature and extent of the problem from the community, police, legal, and safety perspectives …the racers are informed of new and existing racing laws and enforcement actions to be taken, and then begin to fear arrest Street racing and police agency websites, newspapers, television, radio, and personal contacts with street racers may be used
3 Conducting surveillance of the street racing scene Allows police to take preventive action to discourage street racing and to apprehend violators by providing them with knowledge about street racing times, locations, and offenders …illegal races are prevented and access to race areas are blocked Officers may encounter staffing shortages for large-scale operations; if racers become aware of police tactics, it will become more difficult to infiltrate the crowds
4 Encouraging others to exercise informal control over street racing participants Persuades street racing participants to cease or curtail racing activity through informal social control …street racing participants respect the opinions of those seeking to control their behavior and/or fear the consequences of failing to heed informal warnings Street racing participants who feel marginalized from society are unlikely to respond to informal social control methods
Specific Responses to Problems of Street Racing
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
5 Enforcing ordinances and statutes Deters offenders through threat of fines, incarceration, or seizure of vehicles …enforcement is sufficiently certain that offenders believe they are likely to be apprehended; prosecutors are willing to prosecute and judges impose sufficient sanctions Can be labor intensive and time consuming; creates risks of high-speed chases
6 Impounding and/or forfeiting vehicles used for street racing Deters speed racers through threat of loss of valuable property and means to race …the ordinance is widely publicized to deter illegal racing, and an impound fee is assessed in order for the driver to reclaim the vehicle Ordinances must be enacted providing for impounding or seizing vehicles; city prosecutors and other public officials must first support this approach
7 Encouraging private businesses to adopt measures that will help address the problem Deters racers and spectators from gathering to plan their activities and engaging in crime and disorder …such measures as posting “no trespassing” signs, controlling access to the parking lot, hiring private security, and closing the business early can be used Can be costly for business owners, both in terms of outlay (e.g., to hire private security personnel) and in lost revenues if closing early
8 Closing streets and/or restricting traffic flow and parking Prevents racers from using preferred roads; discourages spectators from gathering along roads …there are limited alternative streets on which to race May disrupt other legitimate use of the roadway; may displace racing to other more dangerous roads
9 Creating and/or encouraging racers’ relocation to a legal racing area Diverts street racers to a safe, sanctioned location …street racers are willing to race at legal racing venue; private enterprise is willing to fund and staff the racing venue Legal liability and safety issues must be addressed
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
10 Installing speed bumps     Speed bumps, as opposed to speed humps, can damage the undercarriages of large vehicles and interfere with emergency vehicle responses
11 Arresting and charging spectators as race participants     Defining spectators as participants may not withstand legal challenge
12 Citing and releasing racers     Fines may be inadequate to deter persons heavily committed to racing
13 Deploying decoy police vehicles     Police vehicles vulnerable to vandalism