'People have died': Proposed ordinance would outlaw street racing

'People have died': Proposed ordinance would outlaw street racing

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After ongoing concerns from businesses and neighbors in North and Northeast Portland, the city says it’s going to crack down on illegal street racing.

A proposed ordinance would outlaw “street takeovers” – a term meant to encompass a variety of street racing events such as Sunday’s sliding arena that blocked a Northeast Portland intersection for hours.

Video from freelance photojournalist Mathieu Lewis-Rolland showed drivers spinning at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and Columbia boulevards.

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Rodrigo Aguirre lives nearby and heard the screeching of tires and fireworks being shot off. He said this happens often – and usually, no one does anything to stop it.

“There needs to be more police presence, which is something that we don’t see,” Aguirre said. “When we call, when we used to call the police, the police kept basically giving us the sense that they cannot do anything.”

Aguirre said he no longer relies on calling the police to solve the problem.

“I’m not even calling for gunshots anymore,” he said.

The new proposal would introduce penalties for those involved in street races, including $500 fines, towed cars and even possible jail time. First-time offenders, however, could avoid other penalties by choosing to participate in a District Attorney-approved diversion program.

The potential addition to the City Code comes weeks after a coalition of businesses sent another letter to local leaders pleading the city for a stop to illegal street racing events.

The North Portland Coalition for Safe Streets, which employs thousands of citizens, includes Subaru, Columbia Sportswear Company and Cintas.

It has penned two previous letters to Mayor Ted Wheeler and city commissioners – one last April and one in October 2020. The group says its membership is “growing and is frustrated.”

“Since we last wrote to you and spoke with your representatives, people have died,” the coalition said in its July 19 letter. “The practice of street racing in our neighborhoods on city streets continues unabated without any compliance or enforcement.”

The death refers to an April 18 crash when – just weeks after the coalition sent its second letter – a motorcyclist was killed in an illegal street racing event at the 6200 block of North Marine Drive. Police said the event was attended by about 350 people.

There were no injuries or deaths in Sunday’s three-hour rally, PPB said, but the crowd was so large that officers and medical personnel did not enter the area.

NPCSS are asking the city to step in because employees are afraid to come to work.

“They are threatened and harassed and put into dangerous situations just so they can provide for their families,” the coalition said.

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