Atlanta considers a legal venue for drag racing and sideshows

City just busted 44 drivers and impounded 29 cars for illegal racing

Atlanta, Georgia is all about some street racing, a problem that's blown up so big since the Georgia lockdown emptied streets that Atlanta's chief of police admitted the force wasn't prepared. Over the weekend, the APD conducted a crackdown with the Georgia State Patrol, the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, and the City of Atlanta Department of Corrections that netted 114 citations, 44 arrests, and 29 cars impounded. The timing deserves an asterisk. Via The Drive, 48 hours before the law extended its long arms, Saporta Report noted that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had spoken to city council members of an idea to create a municipally-sanctioned area for drag racing and car shows. The mayor's 18-year-old son had mentioned it, and the city is working with government consulting firm Bloomberg Associates that had also broached the idea. It is only an idea at this point, but Detroit has already tried hosting a legal venue, and cities like Sacramento and Kansas City are considering it.

The history of Fast & Furious-style takeovers of Atlanta streets is so open and lengthy that an outfit called 1320 has posted street racing videos on YouTube for years. One vid got the comment, "ahhh good ole moreland ave. the center of street racing in atlanta since the beginning of time," a reply stating, "I use to race back there in the 80's." The city and its police will need to do something new and unusual to turn the tide, whether that's a cordoned parking lot or massive patrolling. Concerning a venue, Bottoms told the city council, “That’s something we will explore and keep you posted, but meanwhile we will continue to monitor those [racing] hot spots in the city." Meanwhile, the "senior leadership [will] examine the facts, collect best practices and lessons learned from other cities and put a plan in place to address these gatherings."

Council members Dustin Hillis and Carla Smith prefer the law enforcement route. Hillis is preparing legislation that lays out fines of up to $1,000 and as much as six months in jail for every organizer of and spectator at street races. He's not against the mayor's idea, admitting it could serve folks who want a place to enjoy their cars without blocking businesses or traffic. His legislation would address the other groups who need the thrill "of knowing you’re shutting down a state highway or the interstate and coming within inches of being hit by a car doing a doughnut."

When Atlanta's Fox 5 interviewed the chief of police, she made it clear that "the only way to get people to sit up and pay attention is to impound their cars and ideally, put them in jail." Those comments came a week before this latest bust, after another sideshow attracted 100 people and their cars.

If a sanctioned venue gets traction, it could take a while for the city to navigate perennial issues like liability and who foots the bills, leading Jalopnik to wonder if an easier solution might be "simply subsidizing events at existing dragstrips." From our vantage point, now that Georgia's opening up again, the quickest imperfect solution to the most brazen races and sideshows will likely be getting more traffic on the road.

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