Frightened residents and enraged motorists have called the Sheriff’s Department in droves to report these dangerous illegal activities.
By mid-2020, the community was fed up and city officials were determined to develop new tools to fight back.
The Paramount City Council created an ordinance with severe consequences for street racers and the spectators who urge them on.
The objective was clear, the strategy aggressive, the penalties formidable.
Most existing State laws treated these crimes as misdemeanor offenses. Bureaucracy and red tape made it virtually impossible for law enforcement to prosecute through local courts. The City’s new law, however, provided greater enforcement powers to City Hall.
The creation and application of the ordinance was, and remains, an intensive collaboration between Paramount Public Safety staff, the City Attorney, the City’s dedicated Deputy District Attorney, and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
City officials, in a 2020 press conference at the State Capitol and at events held that year by the California Contract Cities, urged other cities to contact them for details about its tough new ordinance.
“Paramount was one of the first cities in our organization to tackle the issue of illegal street racing and intersection takeovers,” said California Contract Cities Association Executive Director Marcel Rodarte. “Many of our member cities used their ordinance as a template to address the issue in their respective communities.”
The ordinance has been effective. From January 2021 through August 2022, these are the numbers:
- 137 arrests.
- 272 Notice to Appear (in court) citations for speeding, modified exhausts, illegal vehicle modifications.
- 78 Notice to Appear citations for spectators.
- 145 Administrative Citations (tickets) for spectators.
- 117 vehicles impounded/stored (25 confiscated).
Fines and vehicle impound costs can reach thousands of dollars for drivers. Spectators can be fined $2,000 per offense and also have their cars impounded if they are illegally parked, as they often are when helping to block off the intersections.
In addition, felony vandalism charges can be filed against drivers, making them liable for full reimbursement of up to $6,000 to repair a damaged intersection.
Ultimately, as noted above, the City can confiscate a driver’s vehicle through the legal process of forfeiture.
Seizing someone’s vehicle permanently is a difficult process that does not happen frequently, noted Lt. Joe Zagorski, Operations and Administrative Manager of the California Highway Patrol Southern Division Street Racing Enforcement Unit.
Paramount’s ordinance, though, is written to make forfeiture in these cases much easier. “They took an innovative approach and it has been successful in helping the city seize problem vehicles for good,” he said.
When attacking these crimes, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Paramount’s preemptive moves have paid dividends, and the City has been only too happy to share its application with others.