Police crack down on street takeovers in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE — New video has surfaced showing street stunts shutting down the intersection of South Brevard and East Brooklyn Village in Uptown Charlotte. Police said Monday they have ramped up their efforts to catch those responsible.

Witnesses told Channel 9 the situation is scary to watch because some drivers come very close to losing control of their vehicles.

“I was coming back from the Charlotte HOS tournament and I started hearing ‘skeer skeer’ and ‘rummm rumm’. All of a sudden I looked downstairs and guys are doing 360s, donuts. Guys are dodging out of the way, looked like somebody was about to get hit but nobody did luckily,” Hunter Swenson, who was visiting the area, said.

Resident Solomon Addica told Channel 9′s Glenn Counts that the situation is more annoying than anything because it stops him from getting a good night’s sleep.

“It was awful. I mean, literally at 2 in the morning, all you hear is street cars just racing and doing burnouts. And as soon as you open your balcony door, all you smell is the smoke,” Addica said.

This isn’t the first time a street takeover has taken place in that area. In January, Channel 9 reported about drivers taking over the intersection outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame to perform stunts and burnouts.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said it has been working to crack down on these events with Operation Street Takeover. The departments have arrested dozens of people in the process.

Charlotte Councilman Ed Driggs spoke on latest street takeover that took place in Uptown.

“It is very loud aside from being dangerous,” he said.

Charlotte city council members said they are confident CMPD will crack down on these stunts.

“CMPD is very aware,” Driggs said. “We are on it. We are trying to balance that priority with public safety, with containing violent crime.”

Councilmember Marjorie Molina said she hears from frustrated residents all the time on this issue.

“It is something we are concerned about and we will be working with CMPD to find a solution that is favorable,” Molina said.

Some residents said they don’t think the police are doing enough to combat the problem.

“I don’t think they are doing enough. The only reason why I say that is because of the times they do it. It’s clear that there is a strategy with the times that they’re choosing. Then even when the response comes, these cars just drip away,” Addica said.

“Where I live it happens almost every single day,” said neighbor Heidi Fitch.

Prosecutors say a reckless driving charge, which is what many are getting, isn’t severe -- which is why it keeps happening.

It now has the attention of Rep. Carolyn Logan, who’s also a retired highway patrol sergeant. She’s working with law enforcement and other lawmakers to come up with a bill that would create a harsher punishment. She told Channel 9′s Dan Matics there’s a lot of support from her colleagues in both the House and Senate.

“We just need to get the bill formatted and introduced and see where it goes from there,” Logan said.

“I’m hoping we can get a companion bill in the Senate because it’s not just happening here in Mecklenburg County. It’s spreading into our other communities,” she added.

In a news conference Monday, Maj. Dave Johnson with the Special Operations Bureau said in the month of February, the department has issued 54 citations, made five arrests, and towed, seized, or taken 12 vehicles into evidence.

He said the takeovers in the Charlotte area are part of a national phenomenon that’s social media-driven. This weekend, he said hundreds of drivers divided into different groups across the city and were involved in various pop-up takeover events between Friday and Sunday in the early morning hours. They all happened at night and were all in highly-populated areas, he said.

“Those who organize [a street takeover] and participate in it have zero regards for public safety,” Johnson said.

Maj. Johnson said just this weekend, CMPD gave out 15 citations, made two arrests, towed eight vehicles and held them as evidence, and seized one firearm.

In regards to the incident in Uptown, Johnson said officers dispersed that crowd and investigated a minor hit-and-run involving a light pole. But he said he heard the most about an incident along Sardis Road North, and added the Uptown situation was more minor than some of the others over the weekend.

Johnson discussed some of the challenges officers face with the operation, mentioning that identifying the drivers involved has been difficult because many of them aren’t the registered owners of the cars. The cars often don’t have the correct license plates, he added, which makes them difficult to track down.

He emphasized a desire to work with the Charlotte City Council and state legislature to add teeth to law enforcement resources so that CMPD can enforce harsher consequences for offenders.


VIDEO: Drivers caught on camera performing burnouts, stunts near Uptown intersection

Dan Matics

Dan Matics, wsoctv.com

Dan is a reporter and anchor for Channel 9.

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