California JPIAMany cities have faced challenges when trying to deter illegal street racing and sideshow intersection takeovers. Illegal street racing occurs when drivers race their vehicles at high speeds on public streets. Sideshows are illegal gatherings where drivers take over city intersections and wide stretches of road to do stunts with their cars, including burnouts, doughnuts, and figure-eights. Unlawful street racing and sideshow takeovers endanger drivers, pedestrians, and spectators. However, sideshows can be especially concerning as they can be advertised, so when the groups of drivers gather, crowds of spectators wait for the “show.” Spectators can soar into the hundreds and block additional traffic lanes and sidewalks. Not only are sideshows dangerous for individuals involved, but they can also damage city infrastructure, destroying the roadway, street signs, and poles.

Most existing state laws treat these crimes as misdemeanor offenses, making them difficult to prosecute through local courts. Unless a public agency has specific ordinances related to illegal street racing and sideshows, deterring these events can be difficult for law enforcement.

The City of Paramount, a California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) member, took action to curb these activities in their city. In 2020, Paramount adopted two ordinances establishing regulations for illegal street racing and sideshow activities. The first ordinance declares that vehicles used in street racing and sideshow activities are a nuisance, allowing the vehicles to be impounded. If cars are used to block an intersection illegally, those vehicles can also be seized. In addition, if damage has occurred to an intersection, felony vandalism charges can also be filed against drivers, making them liable for full reimbursement of up to $6,000 to repair the damage. Vehicle impound costs and ancillary fines can grow into thousands of dollars for each driver. The second ordinance declares that spectators can be cited with a misdemeanor offense and fined $2,000 per offense.

According to a Paramount staff report, data from January 2021 through August 2022 resulted in 137 arrests, 272 notice to appear in court citations, 78 notice to appear citations for spectators, 145 administrative citations for spectators, 117 vehicles impounded, and 25 vehicles confiscated.

“I applaud the City of Paramount staff and city council for addressing street racing and sideshow spectating by taking necessary action and passing ordinances against this illegal and dangerous activity,” said Senior Risk Manager Melaina Francis. “Protecting people, property, and the environment from noise, exhaust, and high-risk maneuvers by drivers that can lead to serious bodily injury, or worse fatalities, is absolutely the best risk management practice.”

In tandem with the ordinances, the city created a task force that has been successful in helping to seize problem vehicles. The task force includes Paramount public safety staff, the city attorney, the city’s dedicated deputy district attorney, and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

“Creating a sound policy to mitigate nuisances and illegal activity in our community takes a team effort,” says Paramount City Manager John Moreno. “We try to balance proactive efforts with responsive action, and it helps when our city council and city staff are philosophically aligned in our mission and goals.”

Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 120 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive training and loss control services. For more information, please visit the California JPIA’s website at