Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Racing in the Streets (Not Just a Song)

I live in a St. Paul neighborhood that is bounded on one side by a four-lane, divided highway. As the weather improves, it's common for us to hear cars racing in the later evening and into the early morning hours. These jerks also race on some of the city streets in the south part of the neighborhood. A few weeks ago, one of them was killed driving on the wrong side of University Avenue, which is now divided by a set of light rail train tracks.

All of that is background to a news story from our western suburbs last weekend: a dozen high-priced performance cars, driven by men aged 25 to 54, were racing at speeds over 100 mph on I-394. In daylight.

They were caught (mostly) by state troopers and ticketed. Their names have been in the paper. As far as I know, they will get only fines, and not even very high ones at that (somewhere in the range of $500).

Today's Star Tribune carried this letter, putting all of that in perspective:

I am hoping that the county attorney and local policing organizations will further investigate the illegal and terrorist activity that took place on Interstate 394 by a gang known for its life-threatening behavior involving the use of exotic and dangerous vehicles. I would also hope that we confiscate the expensive equipment it collaboratively used to avoid law enforcement and terrorize the community. The revenue generated from the auction of only one of its cars would support a community-based youth intervention program for a year.

It’s interesting that when dangerous group behavior is committed by middle-aged, affluent, suburban males, the fear generated is nil — and their behavior is described as an innocent lark. However, when less dangerous behavior is attributed to youth who are poor, nonwhite and from urban neighborhoods, the fear generated is disproportionately high — and often accompanied by demands for draconian law enforcement.

David Wilmes, Roseville
If the police can confiscate property from people suspected of drug crimes, can they confiscate cars like this from people found guilty of using them as dangerous weapons? Why can cars (and motorcycles, especially the ones called "crotch rockets") go this fast in the first place?

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