Sep 27, 2022 - News

"Look in the rearview mirror": Minnesota DPS chief says crackdown curbed street racing

Illustration of a checkered flag taped to a "SLOW" street sign.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Minnesota's top law enforcement official says this summer's street racing crackdown has led to fewer meetups and fewer spectators.

The big picture: State and local law enforcement have been working to put the brakes on the dangerous gatherings, which proliferated across the country during the pandemic.

Why it matters: The street racing meetups are more than a noisy nuisance. Authorities say they're dangerous for drivers and fans.

  • Two teens were killed by gunfire that broke out at gatherings in Minneapolis during one June weekend in 2021.

What they're doing: The State Patrol partners with local police and sheriff departments to identify and deploy officers to the sites of the underground meetups ahead of time, Department of Public Safety commissioner John Harrington told reporters last week.

  • Law enforcement then track the racers via ground and air in an effort to disperse the gatherings before they start.

The result: Harrington said both the number of gatherings and the size of the crowds are down "significantly" from their peak, when hundreds of cars and bystanders would congregate five to six times per weekend.

  • The effort netted dozens of traffic stops and three arrests the weekend of Sept. 17 alone, Harrington said.

Yes, but: It's hard to stop the gatherings fully because organizers often just move to a new location when they spot a law enforcement presence.

  • Harrington acknowledged that element makes stopping street racing a "little bit of a whack-a-mole game."

What they're saying: "I want them to know that no matter where they go, they can just look in the rearview mirror and ... see we're ... right behind them," Harrington said.

  • "And for those that no longer have a rearview mirror because they've got those nice new camera systems: Open the sunroof and look up because [State] Patrol helicopters ain't far behind."

The intrigue: DPS declined to elaborate on the tools it uses to surveil and track the meetups.

  • "It is security data and would jeopardize investigations, planning and tactics for addressing street racing," a spokesperson said.

Of note: Uptown Association executive director David Frank told Axios the hard-hit neighborhood has seen a steady decline in problematic street racing activity since the summer.

  • "It's hard to say exactly when when we were noticing that it was better — or not noticing that it was as bad — but it's been ... a couple of months now," he said.
  • Neighborhood associations representing downtown and the North Loop did not respond to Axios' requests for comment.

Situational awareness: While some of the highest-profile incidents have been in Minneapolis, the issue has spread to the suburbs this year.

What's next: The gatherings typically slow down even more once winter weather hits.

  • "It's hard to do a Tokyo Drift in four inches of snow," Harrington quipped.

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