Organized street racing has plagued Aurora, Colorado, for many years and the problem is getting worse. Unfortunately, many traditional enforcement tactics, such as pursuit, have a low success rate and can end up placing the public in danger.
In an attempt to develop new strategies to combat street racing in the city limits, the Aurora City Council recently passed an ordinance designed to deter street racing. The ordinance creates processes that allow for law enforcement to impound vehicles more easily. While proponents say it offers a fresh approach where other methods have failed, critics warn it could lead to a lack of due process for suspected offenders.
The New Ordinance Explained
The ordinance attempts to accomplish two goals: prevent a known racer from using their vehicle and enact a punishment severe enough to deter other racers. It uses temporary restraining orders to take away access to cars from suspected street racers.
Street racing is a difficult crime to catch in progress, as the primary violators are driving in cars built for speed. Law enforcement officers are often reluctant to chase racers through busy streets because pursuit puts the public in danger.
Instead, the ordinance allows law enforcement to take a slower and more deliberate approach. When street racers are spotted, the police record their license plates, instead of pursuing them. Within a few days, the offender will receive a letter in the mail requesting a court appearance.
The first appearance usually results in a warning or a fine. However, if the individual’s license plate is recorded a second time while street racing, the courts can impound their car for up to one year.
Split Reactions Among the Community
Many parties initially expressed concerns over civil liberty violations. However, some early skeptics ended up changing their minds, including Aurora Councilman Gardner. “After [learning about] the process,” he said. “I felt very comfortable that this wasn’t just simply seizing a vehicle but really giving our residents an opportunity to correct their behavior before we get to that point.”
Another point of contention relates to the effectiveness of the program. Local news stations quoted several anonymous street racers who questioned a core element of the plan. As described, many street racers use stolen license plates. Even if law enforcement plate readers capture the license plate, the information will not lead back to the actual driver.
“The balance between personal liberty and public safety is often tricky to navigate,” said Aurora car accident lawyer Amy Gaiennie. “The skepticism from some community members is justified, but at the same time, new solutions are needed to curb this street racing problem, which is getting worse by the day. It’s an interesting experiment but we must protect the public from dangerous situations.”
The Future of Street Racing Enforcement
Despite early concerns from many members, the Aurora City Council passed the new ordinance unanimously. However, it is far from settled. In one year, the Council will review the ordinance, study the results, and make any necessary changes.
Although the new measure might not withstand legal challenges, and will likely undergo some reworking as time goes on, it does illustrate how big of a problem street racing is in Arvada, and what the community feels is appropriate to stop its growth.