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The Valley is a street racing paradise — and illegal street takeovers are on the rise

Los Angeles sees more than 20,000 hit-and-run accidents every year, according to the LAPD.
Los Angeles sees more than 20,000 hit-and-run accidents every year, according to the LAPD.
K.G.Hawes/Creative Commons/Flickr

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Crowds form in the late evening and block off large intersections in the San Fernando Valley -- sometimes groups of 40 onlookers, sometimes a knot of more than 100 people.

The Valley is known for street racing, but these gatherings aren't for races. Instead, they're to set up so-called "sideshows" and "street takeovers."

"Social media has made it challenging for us," said Captain Andy Neiman, commanding officer of LAPD's Valley Traffic Division. "It's very easy for these groups to coordinate their movements using secret codes and private messaging groups."

Consequently, law enforcement has had trouble tracking and preventing these types of gatherings -- and they're on the rise in San Fernando Valley.

Rev it up

Illegal street behavior was on the decline in SFV until these sideshows and takeovers started cropping up.

Neiman said that these types of gatherings are not happening every night -- but in the past month authorities have received reports on three to four large-scale events.

Catching people in the act, though, has proved difficult.

"Oftentimes they have lookouts staged in different areas and we've also had reports they use drones even, to try to locate law enforcement that may be staged in and around the area," Neiman said.

Law enforcement in the area just doesn't have the resources to continuously track and halt these street gatherings, Neiman said. And while it's still an item on police officers' priority list, they're open to exploring other, more creative ways to crack down on the takeovers.

"We're going to be looking at some other techniques maybe we can utilize to interdict and track this type of activity," Neiman said. "We're looking for the public to, to join in. If they have a video of those incidents, please forward them to us. We will do our best to work with our city attorney to try to file on these individuals if we have enough information."

The perfect setting

Street takeovers in San Fernando Valley aren't altogether surprising. The area has long been a destination for late-night car racing -- and that may have something to do with the layout of streets.

"The San Fernando Valley traditionally has long, wide, straight roads which for years have been very conducive for typical street racing," Neiman said. "So I think it has that history which brings these groups back to the Valley, just because of the historical aspect."

Once officers do manage to arrive at the scene of these gatherings, there's only so much they can do, Neiman said.

"It's becoming more difficult because the laws that are in place right now just don't have the effect that they really should," he said.

Police can cite participants with reckless driving or unsafe driving. Both are misdemeanors, and that's not enough to deter the activity, Neiman said.

Not only are the stakes low for offenders, but once officers do get on the scene, it's hard for them to do their job.

"Oftentimes we will see these individuals jump back in their cars and take off in a crazy dangerous fashion," Neiman said, "which can be even more dangerous than [the situation] we're there to enforce."