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County Ordinance Makes It Illegal to Watch Street Races

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With deaths from illegal drag racing mounting, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday made it a misdemeanor to even watch preparations for the street races in unincorporated Los Angeles County.

Under the law, which was approved unanimously and takes effect in 30 days, spectators may be fined as much as $500 and sentenced to as long as six months in jail.

The ordinance was modeled on similar bans passed in Los Angeles and Ontario a year ago.

Authorities have connected the deaths of at least 12 people to hot-rodding in the county over the past year. In 1999, eight young people died in accidents linked to drag racing or intentional speeding in the San Fernando and Antelope valleys alone.

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Last month, 17-year-old Korra Colnot of San Dimas died in a street race in Ontario. In September, a 17-year-old Riverside youth was killed and five young men were injured in a single-car crash during a race near Ontario International Airport, authorities said.

Two months later, Ontario passed an ordinance allowing police to ticket and even arrest spectators.

Critics of the new laws fear that they will only push illegal street racers and their fans elsewhere.

Nonetheless, support for such laws is spreading. Agreeing to a recommendation from Ontario Police Chief Lloyd Scharf, state Sen. Nell Soto (D-Pomona) has introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor statewide to attend an illegal race.

Under SB 2087, anyone within 150 feet of an illegal race or 150 feet of preparations for it may face up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Some cities, however, are taking a hard look at San Diego, which under a state-funded program called RaceLegal.com hosts drag racing on two parallel eighth-mile tracks in the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium.

But Jack Dolan, director of RaceLegal, said he believes anti-spectator laws work.

“The big adventure in street racing is showing off in front of your friends,” he said.

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But it helps to have legal racing venues as an alternative to street racing, Dolan said. And, he added, officials have to realize that nothing will work to thwart hard-core street racers, he said.

“A large percentage of the draw and the fun is getting chased by the cops. We can’t stop street racing any more than a stop sign stops a car.”


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