Dayton police are talking about tougher penalties for reckless driving after last weekend, when automobile “sideshows” took over streets and intersections in downtown and other parts of the city.
Muscle cars and other vehicles did burnouts, donuts and other dangerous “hooning-type” activities at multiple locations in Dayton early Sunday morning.
Police say these activities have been increasing in frequency at locations across the city since the start of the pandemic, and they hope to find ways to put a stop to them.
“I’m scared for the people who may not be making the best life decisions, hanging out of a vehicle and driving that way,” said Dayton police Major Jason Hall. “I’m scared for our citizens and I’m scared for for my officers responding into that chaotic situation.”
Unlawful stunt driving activities happened over the weekend at East Third Street and Jefferson Street; Second and Jefferson streets; East Third Street and Smithville Road; Philadelphia Drive and Siebenthaler Avenue; and Olive Road and Trotwood Boulevard.
Many of the same cars were involved with each of these events, police said, and vehicles blocked intersections to create spaces for what officials have called automotive “circus acts.”
“This past weekend, we had several hotspots of some of the same, very dangerous hooning-type activity that we’ve experienced on Gettysburg, northwest Dayton and around our city,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.
In a presentation to the Dayton City Commission on Wednesday, Major Hall said reckless operation is a minor misdemeanor violation in the city, which means it is not an arrestable offense.
He said the city might consider increasing the penalty to a fourth-degree misdemeanor, as Columbus did, which means violators would face arrest.
“The statutes available to us don’t always provide a deterrent factor that is necessary,” he said.
Hall said the city could look at enhanced penalties, such as increased fines and seizures of cars involved in these types of incidents.
Hall said city leaders could consider adding new language that addresses spectators at these events.
Other penalties could include license suspension and escalating lengths of impoundment for repeat offenses.
During his presentation, Hall played video clips that have been widely seen and shared online that show street takeovers from over the weekend, including a couple that occurred in downtown about 1 a.m. Sunday.
But Hall also played video clips from car sideshow activities that he says took place back on the Fourth of July holiday.
One car careens around the parking lot with three people hanging out the windows, two passengers sitting in the open trunk and one person crouched under the hood, which is propped open.
Clouds of burning rubber hang over a ring of spectators.
Online videos viewed by the Dayton Daily News show cars performing many types of illegal stunt driving, just feet from spectators and other vehicles in parking lots, intersections and roadways across the Dayton area.
In multiple videos, spectators have to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by skidding vehicles.
Part of the thrill of these events is how close the vehicles come to the crowd, without any barriers or other types of protection.
Videos also show cars doing donuts and burnouts on North Main Street, beneath the Interstate 75 overpass.
Others show cars drifting and performing other kinds of stunt driving on the street and in a parking lot along the 3100 block of North Gettysburg Avenue.
Hall said a large number of hooning activities took place last summer, especially along Gettysburg Avenue.
But Dayton last fall installed concrete barriers, speed tables and humps and other traffic-calming devices on the roadway to try to deter dangerous driving behaviors.
Concrete barriers were placed at the entrance to a storage business on North Gettysburg Avenue. Drivers had used its parking lot as a performance stage.
Hall said sideshow events are well organized, often via social media, and attract sizable crowds. They take place both on the street and on private property.
Hall also said police believe a significant number of vehicles that are involved in hooning activities are stolen.
Across the country, illegal stunt driving became very common during the COVID pandemic, when roadways had less traffic and social activities were restricted.
Police said the city and law enforcement are looking at what other cities that have the same problem are doing, hoping to identify best practices.
Dayton City Commissioner Shenise Turner-Sloss said she wants to ensure the city educates the public about what changes it is making and informs community members that these activities will not be tolerated because they put people in danger.
Dayton City Commissioner Darryl Fairchild said these sideshows are tying up valuable police resources, meaning officers are not available to focus on other important priorities.
About 15 Dayton police officers eventually responded to the sideshows downtown, but even that was not enough manpower to handle the situation, given that there were dozens of cars and even more people involved mostly as spectators, police said.
Dayton police Chief Kamran Afzal said these are very dangerous events and participants often flee from law enforcement at high speeds.
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Videos show cars gunning it once Dayton police or Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies get close. Some vehicles run red lights and ignore other traffic laws.
Afzal said Dayton Police Department policy generally does not allow officers to pursue vehicles that were only involved in reckless operation and hooning activities.
Participants might think street takeovers are fun, but drifting in the middle of the intersection, with tires burning rubber as the cars spin in circles in front of cheering crowds is a recipe for disaster, said Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck.
Streck encourages people who have video footage of street takeovers and business owners with security cameras near places where they occur to share footage with police.
“We hope the videos show license plate numbers, which will enable investigators to determine the registered owners of vehicles,” the sheriff said.