City Council moves to crack down on dangerous street-takeover car exhibitions

Long Beach is looking at increasing the penalties for those who participate in street-takeover events after the City Council directed the City Attorney Tuesday night to begin work on a new ordinance that could fine anyone in attendance.

Street takeovers often involve dozens or sometimes hundreds of attendees blocking off city intersections where drivers perform stunts in their cars. Serious injuries and some deaths have occurred at street takeovers in recent years.

The request was made by Councilman Daryl Supernaw, who represents the area of East Long Beach where a street takeover on Bellflower Boulevard and Stearns Street happened earlier this month.

Supernaw played video footage of the takeover during the council meeting that showed a pickup truck spinning doughnuts in the intersection while a person hung out the window.

Amid the smoke created by the truck’s tires were what appeared to be dozens of people, some who Supernaw said pointed lasers at arriving police officers and another who allegedly threw a firework at a police car.

Supernaw asked that the ordinance take inspiration from other cities like Ontario, San Diego and Paramount that have already passed similar laws that include large fines for racing, allow spectators’ cars to be impounded and allow for felony vandalism charges to be filed against participants.

“It can cost as much as $6,000 to clean up the intersections,” Supernaw said of removing tire track marks from city streets.

Earlier this year, the city of Santa Ana narrowly approved an ordinance that would make it illegal to be “knowingly present as a spectator” at a street-takeover event. Those spectators within 200 feet of an event could be given a $1,000 fine and could be subject to a maximum of six months in jail.

It’s unclear what will be included in the Long Beach ordinance. Tuesday’s vote gave the City Attorney’s office direction to begin working on preliminary language for the council to consider in the future.

While the request was supported by the full council, there were reservations from some members who wanted to have the ordinance narrowly crafted so that it didn’t have unintended consequences, such as infringing on residents’ rights to assemble.

“I think it’s very important that we get a very clear handle on what is a street-takeover event,” said Councilman Roberto Uranga, adding that he didn’t want any future ordinance to be misinterpreted to criminalize protestors.

Vice Mayor Rex Richardson supported the request but expressed concern that the ordinance could have adverse effects on young attendees who should be put into diversion programs rather than have felony charges filed against them.

“When I look at that video, what I see is a bunch of teenagers and middle school kids,” Richardson said, adding that the city should be mindful of alternative tools it has like mentoring programs.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.