Squeaky tires, a spinning engine, and a modified exhaust gunshot “pop”: these are the sounds of a Covid-19 pandemic in Atlanta, Georgia.
Illegal street racing has been a fuss in the United States for decades and is most associated with California and the hugely successful Fast & Furious movie series, but in many cities direct drag racing has taken hold. I am.
The Atlanta scene has skyrocketed over the past year. Street racers who have been robbed of bars, clubs and businesses claim that the road is a high-speed playground because Covid keeps people indoors and reduces traffic.
From East Atlanta to the wealthy Buckhead on the north side of the city, the inhabitants of the most affected areas have lost their wisdom. According to Atlanta police, the number of 911 calls for “drugs,” “racing,” and “doughnuts” increased from about 36 in February 2020 to 568 in October.
A video shared on Facebook after the July 4th weekend captured a large crowd of spectators blocking the elevated Peachtree Street on the main street in Midtown, Atlanta, as the car turned 360 degrees. It was.
A woman in northeastern Atlanta told the local channel WSB-TV: By any chance, it wasn’t fast enough to get out of the neighborhood and go to the hospital. “
Neighbors are also worried that pedestrians and other drivers could be injured if the driver pulling the stunt loses control or the car in the side-by-side race gives the wrong red light. I did.
That fear became a reality only a few weeks later.
18-year-old Anjanee McClain was killed in September with a three-month-old boy when a BMW coupe with speeds over 120mph (193 km / h) collided with their car in Midtown. The Georgia patrol tried to pull the BMW, but the driver refused to stop.
What was once considered a flashy nuisance has become a public health risk.
Nick Nicholson has lived in Atlanta for about 37 years, 18 years in Midtown, the high-rise center of Georgia’s capital.
His apartment is on one of the main roads in the area and is long, straight and one way, so I love racers. You can easily turn it into a giant oval at the nearby boulevard West Peach Tree.
“It makes a lot of noise,” he says. “If you’ve been to a car race on a truck and it lasts for hours and in your ears … well, this is like what it’s like.”
People tend to use “street racing” as a generic term. That may mean that the two cars are speeding side by side, which this neighborhood witnessed most of last year. Or it could be what the law calls “drag”. This includes the driver moving in a zigzag or doing a 360 degree donut spin.
Locals say such stunts are more common these days than traditional races.
The driver will perform what is called a “takeover”, blocking the junction to the car coming in the opposite direction and doing a “side show” for the spectators. Popular tricks include burnout-rotating the wheel in a stationary position to produce dramatic smoke.
Over the past year, Atlanta PD has attempted to crack down and publish more than 100 citations each weekend.
Persons arrested after a street race in the city are prohibited from immediately throwing public debt and must usually be put in jail within 48 hours before appearing in front of a judge.
However, many criminals leave with notice of penalties. If you are arrested and your vehicle is confiscated, it is often due to other factors, such as drugs or illegal guns found in your vehicle.
It is also difficult for police to physically catch a street racer. This department has a “no tracking policy”. That is, police officers do not track suspects in the car because of risk. Therefore, they rely on support from the Georgia Patrol to track.
However, many residents want to see more frequent attacks and steeper punishments-including long-term detention of the criminal’s car.
Asking a street racer why he does so gives two main answers. The thrill of breaking the law and the love for high-speed cars, which they say often lack the space and equipment to reach their limits elsewhere.
Freesmoke100 is the founder of Vengeance Auto Club, a New York-based acquisition club with branches nationwide. Its members travel extensively and sometimes to other states to host stunt-filled “smoke shows.”
“In the last five years, we have had about 300 members in different cities. Detroit, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia … We also had members in Canada. We went to many cities on the East Coast. Georgia- A bunch of members over there, “he says.
Freesmoke 100, who also uses Smoke, says Vengeance isn’t focused on street racing, but some members are still doing it.
“If they want to leave us for a street race at the end of the night and the car gets trapped or involved in an accident, it’s up to them,” he says.
He distinguishes between racing and takeover because he believes blocking junctions and performing stunts at 20mph is less dangerous than lining up public roads at 150mph for speed.
“It’s the way we express ourselves, it gives us a sense of freedom to do these things, for example, lawlessly, do I guess?
“When it starts, you have a meeting place, you’re all talking and talking there. You set the way you get on the road and block intersections that don’t hurt anyone. Make sure you’re together. How do you monitor the various law enforcement agencies that are tracking us? “
While many Atlantans see local street racers as a constant threat and some areas are constantly targeted, Smoke has long been stuck with his crew holding meetings in various cities. Say not.
In his eyes, high-spec cars are a great public pastime, especially in neighborhoods you’ve never seen outside of movies and video games.
“Our main focus is to go to minority and low-income districts, where children usually don’t see these powerful cars (Dodge SRT, Hellcats), and 100. , 200 cars pass and stop .. Close the intersection [by blocking them with stationary cars], Donuts and burnouts in the middle of the intersection. We call them acquisitions. We usually acquire different regions of different cities.
“We want it to be voluntary and give it to those who don’t expect it. When the kids pass by, they see every car and all are surprised,” I have burnout! “Or something like that, and it will be like moving us.
“We try to go to areas that are forgotten by law enforcement agencies, governments, cities … they don’t care about these areas, so when we go there, it’s It’s like … someone admits us. Someone knows we are here. “
Police don’t tend to see it that way, he admits with a laugh.
“It depends on the person of the day. Generally, they are not fans. But I do an event before you put the police there and they cheer you up or do what you do No big deal .. If they give you a ticket, they will give you a reckless driving ticket, or maybe run a red light. “
Smoke adds that many people on his team are professional men and women. He lists nurses, business owners, mechanics, and police officers.
Whatever the claims about responsible tire checks and “safely blocked” junctions, there is an obvious risk that the driver may lose control of his car and hurt himself or someone else. Smoke admits that, but says it’s his own team members who are prone to injury.
“When someone wants to record [on a phone camera], And to get these close shots in the middle, they sometimes don’t have the footwork for it. They will eventually be hit. There is a word “get back or be beaten”. “
If someone gets injured, he says the club has rules in place to prevent a recurrence. However, due to the high turnover rate of members, it is difficult for everyone to understand and follow the guidance.
And, as the events in Atlanta show, there will always be people whose love for speed exceeds their interest in the lives of others.
Last May, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said he was considering creating legitimate areas for side shows such as street races and burnouts to curb reckless driving.
The idea was not well received by some authorities, including Atlanta city council member Dustin Hillis. He told the BBC: Because it has a huge responsibility. “
But others think that’s exactly what the city needs.
Carmad Detroit is already supporting legitimate social gatherings. City police chief James Craig helped a local stunt driver find a private place, saying he wanted to be “part of the solution.”
As a result, with police approval, a weekly event was held in which drivers corrected tire rotation in front of the crowd.
Speaking from New York, Smoke says fast car enthusiasts from all over the United States have begged authorities for more legitimate racetracks.
“Our nearest race track is in New Jersey, about two and a half hours away. We are confident that if we can get a track or place to do these stunts, we can minimize the illegal amount. Activity. “
Still, he admits that a solution away from the public road will never completely hurt the itch of him or others like him.
“Even if they gave me a legitimate place, I would probably not give up traveling to different cities because of the excitement of their faces and would do it voluntarily in front of the crowd. . “