New bill would punish car stunts, street takeovers, ‘hooning’ more harshly

Local state Reps. Plummer and White to sponsor bill; Trotwood officials will use license-plate cameras to ID offenders

TROTWOOD — State and local officials are making a joint effort to deter reckless driving street takeover events like those that occurred in downtown Dayton last weekend, with the introduction of a bill set to establish harsher penalties in Ohio law for participants.

Trotwood city leaders were joined Friday by Republican Ohio Reps. Phil Plummer and Andrea White, who are co-sponsoring a draft bill that would specifically prohibit participating in and spectating at a “hooning” event, which can include street racing, performing doughnuts, burnouts, and drifting.

“We’re here because the citizens have spoken out and they’re tired of this reckless behavior,” Plummer said, adding that the goal of the bill is ultimately to discourage the act of hooning from taking place, but to also allow for penalties ranging from warnings up to the seizure of vehicles for extended periods of time.

Plummer, R-Dayton, said Gov. Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost have also pledged their support for the bill. With the use of the state’s three fusion intelligence centers to investigate planned hooning events, Plummer hopes this bill, which is set to be introduced this week, will allow law enforcement to shut them down before they begin.

“These are organized chaotic events, so we’re going to use the fusion centers to scour social media to be pre-emptive and see when they’re planning to come to our communities,” he said.

Under the bill, the act of hooning will be classified as a first-degree misdemeanor. Anyone found guilty of participating will be subject to a class five suspension of their driver’s license, which is six months to three years. Any car involved in the act would be classified as contraband and therefore subject to seizure and forfeiture.

The draft bill states anyone found guilty of spectating at a hooning event for the purpose of taking photos and videos and/or assisting in the logistics of the event will be convicted of hooning complicity, an unclassified misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1,000.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

At Friday’s press conference, Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald supported passage of new laws with penalties such as seizure and immobilization of vehicles, fines, and even jail time.

“I am completely appalled by what has become blatant lawlessness and disregard for the safety of our citizens and our streets,” McDonald said. “I am beyond (tired of) seeing police officers made a mockery of with little legal standing to address this ... this is a state and national problem and I believe it requires a unified approach to solving it.”

McDonald was joined Friday by Trotwood Police Chief Erik Wilson, City Manager Quincy Pope, law director Benjamin Mazer, and Fire Chief Richard Haacke.

According to Wilson, the recent hooning event in Dayton began at Trotwood Boulevard and Olive Road before participants made their way to downtown Dayton. Wilson said Trotwood does have sporadic reckless driving incidents, but they’re typically not as well-planned as the most recent event.

“We’re trying to get way in front of this to cut the head off the snake before it becomes a serious and major issue,” he said.

Wilson said Trotwood currently has 12-15 Flock cameras installed around the city, which allow police to read license plates on cars recorded breaking traffic laws and may assist in tracking down those involved in hooning events.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

“We’re looking to purchase more traffic cameras and Flock cameras; it’s a great tool,” Wilson said. “What people must understand is that it’s a privilege to have a driver’s license and to use these roadways. These roadways don’t belong to anybody, they belong to everybody. Part of sharing them is driving sensibly to protect yourself as well as others.”

Current laws that can be used to prosecute hooning and similar reckless driving incidents include obstructing official business, disorderly conduct, obstruction of intersections, and operating in a willful, wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.

Wilson said while useful, these laws lack the fortitude to adequately deter and punish the specific act of hooning.

“I just think they need to look at those and refresh them and put a little teeth in those laws,” he said. “The new law (that will be introduced) will specifically target these activities in conjunction with what we already have, and I think we’ll have enough to make somebody think twice about that type of behavior.”

Dayton city officials are also looking to crack down on hooning through increased fines and penalties.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said this week that while participants might think street takeovers are fun, cars drifting in the middle of an intersection, or spinning in circles in front of cheering crowds is a recipe for disaster.

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