Racing for solutions: City of Renton looks to combat illegal street racing

The city of Renton is driving to find new ways to combat illegal street racing.

Though the issue of street racing isn’t new, city officials and the Renton Police Department have seen an increase in complaints from residents, especially from Talbot Hill.

“Renton is a big hub because Renton has some great locations to race,” said Sgt. Bill Judd at the Aug. 7 Committee of the Whole meeting.

With state Route 167 connecting Renton to the other Valley cities, street racing has been an issue in the cities of Kent, Auburn, Tukwila and parts of West Seattle.

According to Judd, street racers are a highly organized group of racers who have established an effective internal communication method, allowing them to move locations instantly.

It’s common to see as many as 100 racers take on the empty streets in Renton, and more than 400 on warm, summer days, Judd added.

Police Chief Kevin Milosevich said the duration of the races are often around 10 to 15 minutes on average, making it difficult for officers get on scene on time. Apart from noise complaints, the department has received complaints ranging from loitering, littering and trespassing.

The city of Kent has recently increased their efforts to combat illegal street racing. This has caused many of the racers to move over to Renton, said Milosevich.

RPD has put an emphasis on high-visibility patrol as well as increased criminal arrests and traffic enforcements to reduce illegal racing.

They also joined a task force with Washington State Patrol, along with police agencies from Auburn, Kent and Tukwila.

As of July 24, 40 people were arrested for unlawful race attendance, three were arrested for street racing, one was arrested for minor in possession, one was arrested for an outstanding warrant, one stolen vehicle was recovered, and multiple traffic infractions and warnings were given to those in attendance of the races, according to a WSP media release.

RPD has put an emphasis on high-visibility patrols, according to Judd, which is done by officers using overtime.

“In order for that to be effective, people have to volunteer to work for them,” he said. “Based on staffing, overtime, and how it ebbs and flows, sometimes there’s more officers available than others. Some weekends, there may be several. Some weekends, there may be none.”

Moving forward, Judd said strategies RPD plans to implement include having officers dedicated to using overtime (based on staffing and availability) and monopolizing task forces and/or patrols in collaboration with other departments.

Judd also said RPD has looked into partnering with the National Insurance Crime Bureau

RPD also wants to partner with prosecutors and other cities to discuss the Stay Out of Areas of Racing (SOAR) ordinance “to look at additional ways to make it more up-to-date,” said Judd.

Milosevich said the city is required to post signs regarding SOAR to inform citizens race attendance is illegal. However RPD recently found the signs around the city were stolen.

Combating the issue with creative ideas has proven to be tricky. Milosevich said he would love to put in speed bumps or rumble bars on streets to prevent racing, but those ideas are an obstacle for the fire department and commercial traffic.

Renton City Councilman Ryan McIrvin asked if placing cameras used in school zones would be a viable option. However Milosevich said that by law, photo enforcement can only be used traffic lights and intersections, and speed enforcements can only be used in school zones.

“This is not solely a police problem,” said Councilman Don Persson. “We will never solve it until we look at it holistically.”