Dallas’ obsession with car culture and racing is in overdrive during the pandemic.
Since last year, calls related to speed racing and car sideshows, or stunts, in Dallas have nearly doubled, according to police statistics.
That’s despite a new law passed earlier this year to crack down on the illegal, impromptu events. Now, spectators can face a fine for attending a street race or takeover.
But the problem of cars revving, doing doughnuts in intersections and recklessly speeding down major streets in Dallas has gotten worse.
This year, police have responded to 8,441 calls compared to 4,867 in 2019. Police issued 3,888 citations for violations ranging from running a red light or stop sign and about 10,000 for lesser offenses like lack of insurance, registration or a driver’s license.
Jesse Reyes, a Dallas Police deputy chief, said the surge in calls stems from multiple events happening in the city on weekends and people calling police more to report them.
During a more than two-hour briefing on Wednesday, council members asked what else could be done to deter the illegal driving activities. They also suggested numerous ideas ranging from more laws to make it easier to seize cars used in the events or shifting officers from civilian positions to patrol.
Council members asked why people would be interested in such events.
Reyes said the short answer is that people attain notoriety when they make the rounds on social media.
“They get cheered on,” Reyes said. “Certainly, they see that and repeat that behavior. Personally, I’m not crazy about it, but I think that’s what drives these people.”
Street racing is a “quality of life issue” that can result in damaged property and death, Reyes said.
In 2019, Olivia Mendez, an 8-year-old Pleasant Grove girl, was killed when a racer struck the car she was in. Three men were charged in connection to the fatal crash.
On Christmas Eve in 2019, an off-duty Dallas police officer, Joseph George, died after he lost control of his 2015 Ford Mustang while racing with another car, according to police. He was a four-year veteran of the department.
Dallas police officials said the issue of illegal street races and takeovers are a national problem, leading recently to fatalities around the metroplex. A Fort Worth couple, who had four children, died last month when a street racer crashed into them.
Dallas police are also juggling an increase in homicides and aggravated assaults, which city officials have pressured police to tamp down on. The city’s murder total stands at 225, surpassing last year’s tally.
Cracking down on the events is labor intensive, Reyes said, but the department has offered overtime for officers to work on its speed-racing task force, which focuses on areas with high call volumes.
But response times have consistently not been hitting goals for priority two calls, which includes racing. The goal is to respond to such calls in 12 minutes, but in some cases, it has taken as long as 30 minutes, according to