Police in Atlanta, Georgia are officially over street racing. They're tired of people doing donuts in the middle of intersections, tired of muscle cars tearing down street in Midtown, and tired of babysitting onlookers who gather on the sidelines to encourage the behavior. Over the weekend, they took action.
Authorities from multiple law enforcement agencies came together to face off against auto enthusiasts who were gathered to race and takeover the streets. Police setup at multiple well-known locations around the city and on the interstates, waiting for the madness to begin. It wasn't long before officers had their hands full—by the end of the weekend, the operation resulted in 114 citations, 44 arrests, and 29 impounded vehicles.
Just under half of the arrests reported by Atlanta's WSB-TV were related to operating an automobile. These included charges of "laying drag," speeding, reckless driving, driving on a suspended license, and driving under the influence. Other drug, gun, and miscellaneous charges made up the remainder.
Atlanta has always been one of the nation's largest hotspots for car enthusiasts, meaning it was no secret that street racing and general automotive debauchery was going on at night. However, street racing has recently become a pressing topic for the same reason that nationwide speeding has: COVID-19. As the roads empty out and businesses remain closed, people looking for a little thrill flock to the streets.
Police say that social media is also partly to blame for the uptick in street racing. Organizers use Instagram and Facebook to advertise the unofficial gatherings, then post videos of racing to increase the number of followers on the page. Even Snapchat users get in on the fun, sharing clips of the hooning to public stories viewable on a live map.
This cycle, linked with the number of people who are on lockdown in their homes with nothing else to do, has created the perfect street racing storm.
Public response to last weekend's arrests, citations, and impounds have been mixed. While some people applaud the police for their actions, others condemn it, noting that police have done nothing to curb the actual problem other than create a minor inconvenience.
Atlanta officials have sought out other long-term options to remediate the reckless driving, including Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms suggesting the possibility of setting up a designated area for drivers to engage in racing. Locals have jumped in to support the mayor's recommendation, even launching a Change.org petition to make it a reality. But for now, police hope that their presence is enough to let locals know that they are watching.
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