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Charges mount as Puget Sound region cracks down on illegal street racing

Illegal street racing continues to cause problems across the Puget Sound region. (KIRO 7)

Cops and prosecutors across King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties have been going after illegal street racing for months now, and their tactics appear to be working.

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We’ve all seen the videos of street racing, and I’m not talking about the glorified and fake stuff you see in the movies.

This is the real deal stuff, where participants and spectators get hurt and even killed when a driver loses control of their car. And it’s not just the old drag racing we used to see on the long straight streets in Auburn and Kent — it’s the takeover events that has really caught the attention of law enforcement.

Street racing has exploded in popularity over the last decade, where organizers use cars or hundreds of spectators to take over a road or intersection to keep people and the police away.

“They use spectator vehicles or participant vehicles to block all four entries into that intersection and create a big pit where vehicles can do donuts or drift,” Washington State Trooper Chase Van Cleave said.

These racers have even done it on the freeway, where blockers slow the traffic to a stop so the racers can burnout with a blockade behind them.

This also isn’t just a Seattle or King County problem. The racers are going wherever they think they can avoid the police — including Pierce and Snohomish counties — no area is immune.

In the past, the police would just run into these groups and try to stop them, but Trooper Van Cleave said that isn’t safe or productive anymore.

“State Patrol and trooper vehicles that have come into these scenes, they’ve been surrounded and hit and kicked,” he said. “We’ve seen videos of them jumping on and kicking cars of people who are just driving through and stuck in this mess.”

Trooper Van Cleave wouldn’t just up the new tactics, but now they try to stop these races before they get going.

“We have emphasis groups that go out on the nights of these events and are trying to safely stop them from happening or stop the event before it gets too big,” he said.

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That’s where the coordination between counties and agencies comes into play. In the past, once the race was broken up and the people went elsewhere, the local police would call it a day. Now, the region is tracking these events together so they can build cases and prosecute people, and that means everyone.

“If you are there in any capacity, you are, in the law enforcement perspective, culpable for the actions that are taking place,” Trooper Van Cleave said.

That means participants, organizers and spectators.

So far, local prosecutors, using this combined emphasis, are building cases against several dozen people for more than 380 charges, including reckless driving and vehicular assault. Those cases are against participants, organizers and spectators.

Trooper Van Cleave said these new tactics are working, but they have a long way to go.

“It’s not going anywhere,” he said. “The problem isn’t solved. Summer is going to be hot. It’s going to be busy. We, for the safety of our communities, want to continue this push into really attacking the takeover scene and the racing scene head on.”

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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