Authorities announce campaign against street racing

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Authorities have announced a safety campaign in the Southland and statewide to combat illegal street racing and takeovers — activities that have turned deadly on multiple occasions for participants and spectators.

The campaign was discussed at a May 18 news conference in advance of the release of the latest “Fast and Furious” movie, where authorities displayed wrecked vehicles, along with images of people whose deaths were related to the illegal activities.

“Our freeways, railways and bridges have been shut down illegally, causing in some cases, folks not being able to make it to the emergency room, and in others just being flat-out late for work,” said California Highway Patrol Deputy Commissioner Troy Lukkes. “These illegal and dangerous activities put people’s lives at risk, damage public and private property, and in some cases even resulted in the death of innocent people.”

Lukkes said that since 2015, incidents involving “speed and speed contests” have quadrupled around the state.

“Additionally, over a five-year period, these illegal activities have resulted in 264 crashes,” Lukkes said. “Of those 264 crashes, 30 of them have resulted in fatalities, and 124 have resulted in injury that we have documented.”

To combat the problem, the CHP has been working with local law enforcement organizations, along with community-based groups, such as the organization Street Racing Kills, Lukkes said.

Among those on hand at the news conference were Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, and Lili Trujillo Puckett, founder of Street Racing Kills.

“This is not just a law enforcement issue; this is a community issue that endangers lives — young and old, innocent as well as those that are engaged in this reckless activity,” Moore said. “The message today is clear: street racing and sideshows are dangerous. They result in death and serious injury, not only to the participant, but also to the spectators and community members.

“The popularity of movies such as the ‘Fast and Furious’ series … we believe is likely the influence [on] copycats, because of the movies’ glamorizing this very dangerous activity,” Moore said. “Movies like this are fantasy.”

Luna noted that there is also an economic cost accompanying the criminal costs of illegal street racing and takeovers.

“We’re going to tow or impound your cars,” Luna said. “Parents — it’s going to have an impact on you. Parents — talk to your kids … where you’re having to pay thousands of dollars to get those vehicles out. We warned you — you have to stop doing this; you’re impacting people’s lives negatively, and it’s costing some lives as well.”

Trujillo Puckett spoke of her 16-year-old daughter, who was killed in 2013 while being driven home by an 18-year-old man who engaged in a street race with a co-worker.

“He crashed [while] going over 80 miles an hour, and Valentina ended up hanging from the window,” Puckett said. “She died at the scene. She died in the middle of the night on the cold asphalt. … She was covered with a white sheet, taken to a coroner’s office, and put in a refrigerator with no clothes on. 

“Sixteen years old in a refrigerator. And she became a number; she became a body; she no longer had a name. She was killed just by the thrill of speed.”

Authorities warned that it is not only illegal to participate in a street race or takeover, but also to attend and watch such activities. Anyone seeing a street race or takeover in progress was urged to call 911.

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