Up in smoke? Street racing trending downward in L.A. for first time in three years

People record video with cellphones as a car surrounded by tire smoke spins in an intersection.
A street takeover in Compton on Aug. 14, 2022.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

As dozens of racers and hundreds of spectators took part in street takeovers throughout South Los Angeles on Sunday evening, two L.A. police squads targeted the gatherings in an effort to bring an end to the dangerous, illegal activity.

Such efforts may be having an effect. Street takeovers and illegal racing have declined across the city, including in South Los Angeles — a hotbed for such activity.

The number of calls reporting illegal races and takeovers in South Los Angeles fell by 21.56% in 2022 versus 2021, the Los Angeles Police Commission reported in statistics released Tuesday.


The numbers are the lowest for South Los Angeles since the Police Commission requested statistics on street takeovers and illegal racing in 2020. They also reverse a pandemic rise in takeovers in 2020 and 2021 as cooped-up residents took to the streets.

There is a growing backlash in some neighborhoods, with residents demanding authorities do more to crack down on the illegal gatherings that can turn deadly in a flash.

Aug. 22, 2022

In 2020, 1,938 calls regarding racing or takeovers were made to South Bureau officers in charge of an area covering more than 640,000 people from USC to the Port of Los Angeles to the Watts Towers.

Calls increased to South Bureau officers to 2,055 in 2021 but dropped to 1,612 in 2022. Statistics for 2023 are not available.

Despite falling numbers, South Los Angeles was still experiencing the second-most takeovers and street races in the city, trailing slightly behind the San Fernando Valley (1,620).

About 24% of all street racing and takeover calls made in the city took place in South Los Angeles.

Sunday’s illegal street takeovers fit with a pattern. Sunday is the most likely day for a street race in South Los Angeles, with 32% between 2020 and 2022 occurring on that day, according to Police Commission statistics.


The commission data found where most of the races and takeovers have occurred over the last three years: Crenshaw Boulevard and West Florence Avenue in South Los Angeles, with 172 calls; Avalon Gardens’ Manchester Avenue and San Pedro Street, with 160; and South Hoover Street and West Century Boulevard, 116. Participants look for “multi-lane roadways that provide significant space” and “have no obstacles that interfere with street takeovers,” the report noted.

As The Times has reported on the illegal phenomenon, these gatherings can turn deadly in a flash, with shootings and deadly crashes.

Lili Trujillo Puckett founded the advocacy group Street Racing Kills after her 16-year-old daughter, who was getting a ride home, was killed in a street race. She told The Times last month, “We’ve seen an incremental increase in task forces to fight street racing, not just here in Los Angeles, but we’re talking everywhere in the United States going after racing.”

Raw footage provided by KTLA from Sunday showed a blue Dodge Charger doing doughnuts in the intersection as a firework was shot into the sky. A number of spectators milled around in the street as the car screeched in circles around them.

Sacramento’s Taqueria Garibaldi, already under investigation for alleged wage theft, brought in a priest to get workers to confess about sins they committed at work.

June 13, 2023

Los Angeles police directed an operation targeting takeover hot spots that lasted from Sunday night into early Monday. They said they halted or prevented eight takeovers.

The operation was carried out by the department’s task force for regional auto theft prevention and the street racing task force.


“When officers respond to an area takeover in progress, that disruption comes with lights and sirens, and suspects and spectators disperse,” said Melissa Podany, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson. “We want to remind the public that they will be cited for just being at a takeover, while those involved will have their cars impounded.”

For the record:

6:00 p.m. June 15, 2023A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of a Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson. Her name is Melissa Podany, not Podani.

Police said they made two felony arrests, with one person suspected of carrying a concealed firearm and another of evasion. One firearm was recovered. The street racer task force took to Instagram following the takeovers, posting a photo on Instagram of a ghost gun they said was seized, as well as an image of an off-road vehicle with the message: “Driving off highway vehicles on city streets is illegal. Running from the police is also illegal. These rolling takeovers are illegal and dangerous.”

There were 17 vehicle stops made on Sunday evening and 19 citations, with 15 of the infractions attributed to speeding.

In total, 17 vehicles were impounded, and three drivers without licenses were cited.

Podani added that three vehicles were referred for a Bureau of Automotive Repair inspection to see if any parts had been added illegally.

“In this case, we’re looking for modified exhausts or modified parts that are not standard or originally manufactured with the vehicle,” Podani said. “These components will have to pass a BAR inspection with a certified state inspector and these vehicles will either need to be confirmed or corrected so that they’re street legal.”