AURORA | A trio of members of Aurora City Council on Thursday put forward a proposal that could allow Aurora police to seize cars from local residents believed to have repeatedly participated in illegal street races.
The so-called “Public Nuisance Vehicles Ordinance” would allow a court to issue an injunction against any car owner and pledgee and deprive them of their vehicles if they are found to be involved in a range of traffic violations, including vehicles Dodging, blocking a freeway, reckless driving, participating in a speed competition and stepping on, among others.
Authorities could then hold a resident’s car for up to a year while incurring storage and towing fees as per the proposed language of the measure. If an owner does not pay the fees within 60 days of a final court ruling, the vehicle may be considered abandoned and destroyed.
Before such action is taken, the police will notify owners that their cars have been involved in the above traffic violations and give them an opportunity to resolve the issue before litigation.
City officials said the vehicles are often used by teenage drivers whose parents are unaware that their cars are used in road racing.
“Usually it’s a child for whom a parent bought the vehicle,” said assistant prosecutor George Koumantakis. “The first remedy is to try and get the parents to step in and now they understand that this is how their vehicle is being used. There is a legal process that has this regulation in place and everyone will know what is going on and if it isn’t, the terms of the agreement will determine what happens next. “
The proposal tabled on Thursday differs from a tactic to eradicate street racing that Aurora police used earlier this year. In the past few weeks, police officers have been targeting owners of cars involved in road races, regardless of whether the owner was behind the wheel, by using an existing city code.
Traffic authorities have contacted owners of cars found to be reckless, negligent, or racing with a letter asking them not to re-engage in such activities.
The letter states: “As a vehicle owner, you are hereby notified that you must use good faith efforts to prevent any person, through appropriate measures or otherwise, from doing any of the above or any other act in connection with road racing again commits the law with your vehicle, “it says in an excerpt from the police.
If the owner’s vehicle is found to be involved in races after receiving the letter from the authorities, they may face charges in a city court that could result in jail sentences or fines.
“That is your standard traditional response regarding fines or impact from the courts and we are calling for the ability to reduce vehicle harassment … in terms of treating the vehicle as harassment rather than as a driver or driver owner,” said Aurora Police Lt. Mike Hanifin on the current method and proposed regulation. “They are two separate things.”
Councilor Francoise Bergan, who sponsors the new measure, said the effort comes from years of road races in the area.
“It was based on decades of complaints from our residents,” she said. “And we wanted to make sure that this is worded in such a way that it is not a criminal offense, but that the vehicle problems are fixed or reduced.”
Even so, Curtis Gardner, who sits on the city’s public safety committee, said he was suspicious of authorizing Aurora police to seize residents’ property, a practice that has been scrutinized across the country in recent years has been.
“I think if we go down the government path of confiscating citizens’ property, there may be unintended consequences,” he said. “So before we get into any program that does this in my reading, I really want to understand what the results will be. I think it’s a matter of civil liberties. “
Road races have grown rapidly across the Metroplex over the past year, in part due to the lower traffic levels caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aurora residents reported 1,588 road racing cases to Aurora police in 2020, data shows. In 2019 there were only 66 such cases.
Authorities expect street races to cross the 2,000 mark this year.
Investigators received dozens of calls related to a chaotic road race along Interstate 225 in the city in March that seduced hundreds of drivers.
Police announced in April that an unnamed boy had been issued a criminal summons on three traffic-related charges in connection with the March 7 incident that saw hundreds of cars stopping along the highway. The boy, whom police did not name because he is not a legal adult, will appear in Arapahoe District Court on charges of reckless driving, driving a license and attending a speeding exhibition.
Investigators also announced more than four dozen charges – including 45 false detention cases – against a suspected organizer of the event, the 21-year-old Anthony Corona, although he will not stand up against the charges made against him, when he died in a traffic accident in Broomfield on April 4th.
Earlier this spring, the Bandimere Speedway in Morrison launched a public drag racing series specifically aimed at curbing illegal races on public roads in the area.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman has endorsed Aurora’s involvement in the series on Twitter. He reiterated his favor for the subject in a series of tweets released during the committee meeting on Thursday morning. Coffman did not speak at the meeting.
Bergan’s regulation will now be forwarded to the entire city council for further discussion.
Police are encouraging residents to report future road racing incidents in the city ReportStreetRacing.com.