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State leaders: Solution planned for Valley car chaos

Posted at 9:46 PM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 06:41:44-05

PHOENIX — State and city leaders are working to find a solution to the growing problem of street racers in the Valley.

“It’s getting to the point where it’s out of control," said Alberto Gutier, with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. "In their mind, they’re gonna keep doing it and get away with it."

Gutier says the problem has become a headache for Phoenix police in particular because the department doesn't have enough manpower or a dedicated unit to tackle the issue.

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"They came to us and said, 'we would like to create a task force,'" Gutier said Tuesday.

Phoenix police submitted a letter to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety on December 13 asking for a $100,000 grant to launch a "street racer task force," which would "deploy 20 officers, five motor officers, an aircraft (fixed-wing & helicopter), a sergeant and lieutenant to combat street racers in the City of Phoenix and surrounding freeways," according to the letter signed by Chief Jeri Williams.

“I think we need more officers in these areas," said District 4 councilmember Laura Pastor. "I think with the way the task force will work is they will become part of the network without the drivers realizing they're a part of the network.”

Pastor supports the efforts to increase enforcement and dedicate a group of officers to tackle the growing issue but says the effort needs to go beyond police presence.

"When they do catch somebody, it’s only a citation... it’s just a civil offense and it’s not much," she added.

Pastor says she's hoping to advocate for a change in current state law.

ARS 28-3511 dictates when law enforcement is allowed to immobilize or impound a vehicle. Currently, the statute allows law enforcement to impound cars for 24 hours if caught driving recklessly after a first offense. Pastor hopes to increase that number to 30 days, with hopes that the harsher financial impact will encourage drivers to stop the dangerous antics.

"Many lives are at risk, and I just think about the aftermath of one of those incidents going wrong," she said. "People don’t understand that until something happens and I just want to prevent something from happening.”