After weeks of trying to put the brakes on illegal street racing, the Bakersfield Police Department plans to hold community forums addressing the issue in the near future.
The department plans to host a virtual forum later this week and tentatively plans to host a forum Jan. 21 when Bakersfield City Council representatives and community members can help “form an end goal," BPD Sgt. Nathan McCauley said Monday.
The forum plans — and crackdown on racers — come following public outcry about how the issue is impacting neighborhood safety and serenity.
Before November, BPD’s Street Racing Enforcement Operation would take place every few months, according to McCauley. Now these operations take place weekly, with 10 since Nov. 23.
“For the most part, every weekend (officers have) been able to find people engaging in these activities,” McCauley said.
As of Saturday, these operations have netted 78 street racing related traffic stops, 59 citations, 15 cars impounded and a number of arrests that range from misdemeanors to felonies, the sergeant said.
Three arrests were made this weekend, two on suspicion of grand theft auto and one for an outstanding DUI warrant.
“I think there’s been progress," McCauley said. "There’s more awareness out there. I think from what I’ve gathered, the number of people (participating) has started to decline."
Susan Houghton, a resident of Haggin Oaks, is the creator of the Moveon.org petition “Stop Street Racing in SW Bakersfield!”
The petition, which has garnered 774 signatures since its late-November inception, was started to voice the concerns of residents Houghton would see on the social media app NextDoor.
Houghton said she has not received any information regarding enforcement operations or upcoming community forums.
“If they are truly doing weekly enforcement operations, that should be commended,” Houghton said. “I don’t think the people who signed that petition have any clue there have been 10 enforcement operations held.”
Revoked driver’s licenses, hefty fees and vehicle impounds are all possible results of street racing citations, according to McCauley.
Officers are still not sure of the total number of street racers in Bakersfield.
“You go places when you see 300 to 500 cars in an area, but not all of them are engaging in illegal activity,” McCauley said. “It can be illegal for meeting up in a no-trespassing area.”
While certain locations — such as the Kohl’s parking lot at 5238 Gosford Road — are identified as street racing “hot spots,” BPD does not consider it an issue that’s geographically unique. McCauley considers it an “ever moving target” that rotates through various locations when law enforcement steps in.
Houghton hopes that any community forums would start a conversation among concerned residents, public officials, law enforcement and the street racers. Houghton noted that she was not interested in the forums being centered around BPD’s enforcement efforts.
“This is not about them sharing how good they are. We want a fundamental paradigm shift,” Houghton said.