After failing to find a solution that holds up, Renton Police Department is proposing a new strategy to combat illegal street racing.
According to Commander Chad Karlewicz, closing down the popular racing roads would help keep racers out of Renton.
In the past, RPD has increased moving and non-moving violations, put an emphasis on high-visibility patrol, increased criminal arrests and traffic enforcements, and conducted undercover operations. Karlewicz said those tactics have worked to a degree, but were short-term solutions.
“As soon as we stop doing that and we can’t have people out there every night enforcing it or doing undercover work… the next weekend the (racers) are back at it,” he said at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
The new approach, which Karlewicz said has a better chance at working as a long-term solution, is to cut off access to the main racing roads on an ongoing basis.
The new proposal aims to close the popular streets for racing, that are “wide, long, straight and flat,” according to Karlewicz. He proposed closing Oakesdale Avenue Southwest (between Southwest 16th Street and Southwest 41st Street), Southwest 27th Street (between Lind Avenue Southwest and Oakesdale Southwest), and keeping Southwest 34th Street open with a staffed controlled access point at Oakesdale Avenue Southwest.
“The goal of the new approach is to make Renton a not-sought-after place for street racing…. Our goal is to push them out and get (racers) to go and be somebody else’s problem,” said Karlewicz.
Karlewicz said he would be contacting businesses near the affected areas to inform them about the enforcement this week.
The department also aims to increase stricter enforcement by implementing zero tolerance for violations and impounding vehicles where legally authorized.
The city has been receiving a high number of complaints regarding street racing since last year. At a Committee of the Whole meeting in August 2017, Sgt. Bill Judd told council members that it is common to see as many as 100 racers take to the empty streets, and more than 400 on warm, summer days. Karlewicz said on Monday the department has arrested as many as 218 people in one night.
To implement the new strategy, the department needs to purchase 16 barricades, 30 cones, 18 signs, and a trailer to transport the equipment. Karlewicz estimated the total cost of equipment to be around $10,000 and requested the council’s approval to purchase the items and to conduct road closures on Friday and Saturday nights.
The council unanimously approved the requests at the City Council meeting Monday.
The department is also planning on increasing the number of officers patrolling the area. Karlewicz said there will be five officers posted at each closure for the first few months.
The closures will start this weekend, on May 11 and 12. RPD will be working with the Kent Police Department this weekend for a combined racing enforcement effort.
Council member Don Persson said that he’d like to see the department find a solution that’s long lasting.
“I personally would like to see a longer-term plan like permanent gates we could go out and close off,” Persson said. “I’m convinced this is going to be successful but I’d like to see something more long term we can start budgeting for.”