Police are hoping a new approach to enforcement will curb St. Paul's street racing problem.
After an increase in complaints related to street racing and people congregating in business areas of the city, St. Paul police began a new strategy Saturday to crackdown on illegal street racing, the department's western district Facebook page says.
Sgt. Paul Paulos told KSTP that street racers from around the Twin Cities and outside the metro area come to St. Paul because there are a lot of straightaways.
As part of the department's new strategy, officers will be assigned to monitor street racing hotspots and will "aggressively conduct traffic stops" for safety and equipment violations, as well as issue warnings about the dangers of street racing.
Police note that the first weekend will be an "education phase," but after that there will be a "zero-tolerance" approach to enforcement, which includes issuing citations and impounding vehicles when appropriate, the post says.
"We believe that taking this approach will ultimately provide for a safer environment for pedestrians and traffic in the western district," the post says.
Some commenters on the department's Facebook post applauded officials renewed effort to stop street racing, with at least one person noting they are tired of waking up to the sound of street racing.
A 'perennial problem'
This isn't the first time police have pushed to limit street racing – something the department calls a "perennial problem" in the western district.
Back in 2009, an innocent motorist was killed when a car that was being pursued by police after fleeing a street racing event slammed into his vehicle,the Star Tribune reported. Moussa Maayif's death renewed a push to curb illegal street racing in the city.
In 2012, four people were injured when two cars that were believed to be street racing crashed in St. Paul.
Last fall, a business owner in northeast Minneapolis – located where street racing is also popular – asked racers to stop and was roughed up by participants, FOX 9 reported. Police at the time told the news station that despite surveillance cameras, additional lighting, increased patrols and social media, they have found it tough to catch street racers in the act.
Police in St. Paul urge anyone to call the department's non-emergency number (651-291-1111) when they witness street racing.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says studies conducted in Minneapolis and Atlanta in 2013 show that street racing was growing in popularity in Minneapolis and people participated in such events because it's fun, for the "thrill" and because of popular Hollywood hits like "The Fast and the Furious" series.
Street racing was listed as a factor in 135 fatal crashes nationwide in 2001, the National Hot Rod Association reports.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which is currently running in an increased speed enforcement campaign around the state, says one in five fatal car accidents is due to unsafe speeds.