Dozens of law enforcement officials and community members met Tuesday morning to discuss ways to combat what police are calling a growing epidemic of illegal street racing.
The Los Angeles Police Department hosted the meeting, which also brought officers from California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the rest of the county.
They agreed to create a multi-agency task force in the summer to combat street racing. And they talked about possible legislative efforts to fight illegal street racing as well as finding legal alternatives for the street-racing community.
"I think we all know that we share a problem with street racing that encompasses multiple jurisdictions," said John McMahon, LAPD Valley Traffic Division captain. "Although the problem has been around for decades, addressing it collectively from a multi-agency standpoint is something that we need to improve upon."
Among those present at the gathering were representatives from the Irwindale Speedway and the National Hot Rod Assn., who also discussed ways of promoting racing on a legal track.
Some of the suggested legislative options included allowing cars with modified emissions to be impounded when police identify the modifications; such vehicles would be released only if the driver made an appointment to get the illegal alterations were fixed.
"Legislatively we need more laws that have a little bit more bite to them for our enforcement efforts," said Sgt. Greg Fuqua, who runs the LAPD's Aggressive Driving Detail, a new unit based out of the Valley Traffic Division that focuses on tackling street racing. Since his unit started in November, he said his officers have written over 700 modification tickets.
But Fuqua said that has not been enough.
"It really hasn't had the effect and that's why you're all here because we need something that has some teeth to it. Hopefully some legislation that can pass so we can get rid of this issue," he said.
The meeting comes on the heels of recent street-racing crashes, including one in Chatsworth in February that killed two spectators and another one in Gardena on March 31 that left two people injured and one dead.
Attendees said illegal street racers have turned to social media to try to stay one step ahead of law enforcement and plan where to meet.
"Social media has allowed this problem to relocate any time anyone of us applies enforcement action," McMahon said. "They jump on any one of their several social media sites only to move the problem to one of our partnering jurisdictions. More often than not, the good efforts of one agency only results in the tragedy occurring in somebody else's jurisdiction."
Officers highlighted the street-racing issue with a video of the Chatsworth crash, as well as clips of cars doing doughnuts in parking lots and sometimes surrounding police cars to let other street racers escape. They also showed photos from Instagram racing accounts that promoted races and car meets.
"It's very important that all the agencies partner together to combat this rise in illegal street racing," said Roosevelt Johnson, captain of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station. "It is becoming a larger problem."