Though it’s not as prevalent as it is in the city of Atlanta, illegal street racing has become a problem in neighboring Sandy Springs and other surrounding municipalities over the past year.
“As lot of people know it is a major issue in the Atlanta metro area,” Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone said. “As far as Sandy Springs goes, we’ve only had three cases of street racing.”
The city is hoping a new ordinance in the city’s code will help give the city “more teeth” in combatting the problem, DeSimone said. At its Feb. 16 meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sandy Springs City Council voted 5-0 to approve the ordinance to regulate and prohibit street racing. District 3 Councilman Chris Burnett was absent.
Illegal street racing includes cars laying drag and/or racing and large crowds gathering to watch. The new law, which went into effect immediately, targets not only the street racing participants and organizers but also its spectators. It will punish offenders with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or six months in jail. Also, street racers’ vehicles will be impounded for at least 30 days or the case’s final adjudication, to the maximum amount allowed by state law.
Sandy Springs’ ordinance is similar to the ones other metro Atlanta cities have adopted in the past six months as a way to battle street racing. According to an ordinance presentation document, the cities of Brookhaven, Doraville, Dunwoody and Roswell have approved their own laws.
Also, in August, the Atlanta City Council approved an amendment to its existing street racing ordinance so it could also provide penalties for spectators, too. In November, that council passed a resolution seeking the state’s help on the issue by approving a new state law that would require vehicles to be temporarily seized, instead of just impounded, when used in connection to illegal street racing.
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said there are two bills moving through the Georgia General Assembly that could become the state laws Atlanta and other cities were asking for.
District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio mentioned a street racing incident that occurred about a month ago at the Whole Foods parking lot off Roswell Road.
“What have we actually done to prosecute or break up these in the past?” he asked DeSimone. “I’m not saying we don’t need a new ordinance to stop this.”
The police chief replied, “What we do is try to make arrests when the cars stop. I believe the count was over 150 vehicles (that night). They outnumber the police department sometimes. We put them in the city court system. (Under) this new ordinance … they have to come to court (to pay their fines). They can’t pay it online.”