MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Cars stopping traffic to do donuts at an intersection or forcing traffic out of the way as a driver speeds by on the roadway – they’re practically an everyday occurrence in Memphis.
This week, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) presented city council members with its latest statistics on drag racing and reckless driving arrests so far this year.
Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland offered his thoughts on what needs to be done to try to deter folks from participating.
“I think the real deterrent would be if we could seize the car and destroy the car, we can stop people from doing it and save lives,” Strickland said.
According to this week’s MPD city council presentation, MPD says the North Main precinct has made the most drag racing arrests so far this year.
Since January 1, MPD says they’ve arrested more than 300 drivers for drag racing and reckless driving.
Officers at the North Main precinct are responsible for 56 arrests so far this year.
MPD Deputy Chief Paul Wright says that with every arrest, the car is towed.
“Going back last year, I can tell you there were 80 cars towed because there were 80 drag racing arrests,” Wright said.
The boundaries between precincts can be as small as one side of the road versus the other. That’s the case with the Mt. Moriah and Ridgeway precincts, where the divider is Hickory Hill Road. Ridgeway ranks second with 52 arrests, and Mt. Moriah is fourth with 48.
You may be thinking, what happened with the third? That’s Tillman Station, which covers the Binghampton neighborhood. It sits in third place with 50 arrests.
“You can always call your local precincts about incidents that may be happening over a period of time in the same place,” Wright said.
Appling Farms and Crump precincts are tied for fifth with 30 arrests so far this year.
Raines and Airways are also tied at seventh place with 28 arrests.
Austin Peay sits at the bottom of the rankings at ninth with 21 arrests so far.
It seems like each weekend brings another round of social media posts promoting car shows and block parties.
City leaders say it’s actually a cover for drag racing.
“I did a ride-a-long on Chelsea, and that’s the night they had a big spinning festival, donuts, and it was started by a local businessman there. I asked if there’s any civil or criminal penalties attached, and the answer was no,” Mayor Strickland said.
They’re disguised and branded as car shows and ‘slide shows,’ and that’s the reason MPD says they can’t immediately charge the promoters.
Based on the wording, there’s no indication there will be illegal activity happening.
“A takeover” is just one of the handful of nicknames FOX13 found on social media posts about upcoming street racing events across the city.
“We are not ignoring what we see on social media,” MPD Chief CJ Davis said Tuesday.
MPD says they get tips about these potentially dangerous events daily. But police chief CJ Davis says their hands are tied unless promoters explicitly say there will be illegal activity happening.
“Investigative information that is forwarded to us about events that could create a public safety risk in the city, we’re absolutely investigating and following up on,” Davis said.
It’s a question that Mayor Strickland says he’s also asked, and although seizing cars is a good start, he says there’s another direction he and other city leaders may go: straight to the state legislature.
“I don’t care if those people necessarily serve time in jail under the law right now because it’s not a violent crime, they’re not serving any time in jail, but if we can smash those cars and destroy them, that would be the deterrent for what’s going on. We need state law to do that.” Strickland said.
Memphis Police say once they are made aware of where these events are happening, they do their best to try to coordinate and get patrol there.
They also recommend calling the non-emergency police number at 545-COPS.
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