Long Beach could soon start cracking down on illegal racing and street takeovers as the City Council is expected to approve a new ordinance next week that would make it illegal to be a spectator at such events.
The ordinance was requested in July by East Long Beach Councilman Daryl Supernaw, who showed footage of a takeover event where dozens of people and vehicles blocked the intersection of Stearns Street and Bellflower Boulevard with some attendees pointing lasers at arriving police officers.
Supernaw said Monday that the point of requesting the ordinance was to make sure that Long Beach did not become a haven for that kind of illegal street racing activity as other cities around Long Beach had already adopted, or were in the process of, putting similar laws targeting spectators on the books.
“If other cities are doing this, we just needed to send a strong message that Long Beach is not going to tolerate this,” Supernaw said.
The new ordinance would make being present at a site where illegal street racing, sideshow or other “reckless driving exhibition” during a street takeover is being performed or prepared for punishable as a misdemeanor or infraction. The city prosecutor would get to decide what level of charges to bring against those caught at takeover events.
The law would apply to any public street or parking facility if the council adopts the ordinance as currently written. A person would be considered “present” if they are within 200 feet of a reckless driving exhibition.
Preparing for a street takeover is narrowly defined in the ordinance’s language. It could mean one or more persons are impeding the public use of a street or one or more vehicles are lined up on a public street or parking lot revving their engines or causing the vehicle’s tires to spin.
A person’s past attendance at street takeovers could also be used against them as evidence for future charges.
The ordinance proposes allowing evidence that a person has been present at or been charged with previous offenses tied to street takeovers as proof that they were knowingly present at an event in the future.
“We don’t want someone blindsided by not knowing that this was against the law to do,” Supernaw said of that part of the proposed law.
It’s unclear if the three-year rule would be retroactive to the council’s potential adoption of the new ordinance. All city offices were closed Monday due to the President’s Day holiday and a representative from the city attorney’s office could not be reached.
While the council voted unanimously in July to have an ordinance drafted, some members raised concerns that it could be misinterpreted in a way that could target protests or that a diversion program might be a better tool to address youths who are present at street racing events.
If the council chooses to approve the ordinance it would go into effect 31 days after its formal adoption at a future meeting. Non-emergency city ordinances require two votes by the council meaning the new bystander law could become effective as soon as April.