Richmond police aim to deflate sideshows

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Richmond police aim to deflate sideshows
Photo by Eugene Lower on Scopio

The Richmond Police Department is in the process of equipping patrol cars with tire deflation devices, and also hopes to staff 38 CCTV cameras that aren’t currently being monitored in the city, as part of a broader proposal to stop rampant sideshow activity.

In July, the Richmond City Council directed city staff to draft an ordinance to deter and prohibit the problem of unauthorized sideshows in the city. Sideshows are when motorists spin their vehicles in a circle, creating circular skid marks on the pavement and a large plume of smoke from the friction of the spinning tires. Year to date, the RPD has received at least 224 calls of single cars spinning donuts at intersections and over 676 calls of reckless driving.

Since state law already prohibits sideshows, considering the practice reckless driving, a city ordinance is not necessary, according to city staff. Richmond police Chief Bisa French is recommending a multi-faceted approach to address the problem that includes education, outreach and additional tools.

In documents prepared for the agenda of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Chief French proposed strategies that include continued collaboration with Bay Area law enforcement agencies to discuss and share intelligence on sideshow activity, as well as the deployment of tire deflation devices, which the RPD is currently training its officers to use. The RPD is also researching GPS Tagging Technology that offers officers the ability to tag and track a fleeing vehicle, and is considering acquiring license plate readers that protect undocumented community members and could be used to identify cars involved in sideshow activity.

The RPD is currently training officers to write seizure orders for cars involved in sideshow activity that flee the scene. With a judge-signed order, officers can go to the driver’s home and impound the car for up to 30 days, Chief French said.

The RPD also hopes to staff its CCTV camera system with nonsworn staff to identify the drivers. Staffing levels, of course, are an issue for the RPD, particularly in the wake of the Richmond Progressive Alliance-led City Council’s defunding of the city’s Police Department.

“The Police Department struggles to maintain minimum staffing levels daily and is
currently mandating that officers work overtime in the Patrol Division,” Chief French states in her proposal. “When operating at minimum staffing levels, patrol officers are focused on emergency response and have less time available to focus on traffic enforcement. Until staffing levels improve, more investment is needed in technology and the non-sworn CCTV program to better address sideshow activity and reckless driving.”

The RPD is expected to present and discuss these issues at the upcoming City Council meeting Tuesday night.