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CHP arrests dozens, seizes vehicles in street racing crackdown

California Highway Patrol investigators probe the scene of a fiery crash on the 5 Freeway that left three people dead in Commerce earlier this year. Police believe the wreck was due to illegal street racing.

California Highway Patrol investigators probe the scene of a fiery crash on the 5 Freeway that left three people dead in Commerce earlier this year. Police believe the wreck was due to illegal street racing.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times )

The California Highway Patrol arrested nearly 50 people and impounded dozens of vehicles during a series of weekend crackdowns on illegal street racing in Los Angeles County last month, an agency spokesman said.

The arrests, which took place across three weekends from April 10 to April 22, were the result of collaboration between the CHP, the Los Angeles police the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, marking a larger coordinated effort to target racers after speed contests were linked to a spate of deaths in recent months.

“The collaboration is the key. Now that we’re all on the same page, that is going to really allow us to stay in tune with the culture and the most coveted locations so we’ll be prepared,” said Sgt. Jose Nunez, a spokesman for the CHP’s Southern Division.

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The CHP and LAPD teamed up to record 26 arrests and impound 20 vehicles on April 10, Nunez said. Similar operations yielded multiple arrests and impounds the following weekend.

Detectives with the CHP, LAPD and Sheriff’s Department made an additional 16 arrests on April 22 after learning that a number of racing clubs from the Bay Area planned to travel to Los Angeles County for a race, according to Nunez.

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At least one person was arrested for felony evasion after sparking a high-speed pursuit. The CHP has also managed to identify several suspects who either led racing clubs or organize meets, commonly known as “sideshows,” in Los Angeles and the Bay Area in recent weeks, Nunez said.

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Street racing became a larger focus for local law enforcement earlier this year after a fiery crash on the 5 Freeway left three motorists dead, including the son of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant. Dealio Lockhart, 35, was charged with murder and reckless driving, and admitted to investigators that he had been racing, according to the CHP.

A 36-year-old music teacher was also killed earlier this year when a suspected racer lost control of his vehicle on a busy Hawthorne street.

Most departments in Los Angeles County do not have detectives specifically assigned to investigate the local street racing scene, citing a host of issues ranging from manpower to the unpredictable nature of the crime.

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But leaders from several county law enforcement agencies met earlier this year to discuss the formation of permanent task force, led by the LAPD, to address the issue..

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in Southern California.

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