PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and leaders from the Portland Police Bureau held a press conference Tuesday afternoon about the ongoing efforts to stifle dangerous street racing activity in the area.
“Portlanders across the city have been deeply impacted by these street takeover events,” Wheeler said. “These illegal and dangerous acts put both participants as well as the bystanders at significant risk.”
Wheeler condemned street racing for commandeering public spaces and blocking emergency vehicle access. He spoke on the city ordinance which makes street racing and sliding a misdemeanor.
Racers who break the ordinance — including people who merely facilitate the events — risk up to a month in jail, a $500 fine and their car being towed. Wheeler reminded the public that this charge would be in addition to any applicable criminal charges.
This addition to the City Code comes after years of street racing events taking over Portland streets and bridges — often causing crashes, traffic back-ups and even death.
In recent months, PPB cited a lack of resources and personnel as to why street racers were able to take over city streets repeatedly.
“I think everyone is getting tired of the Portland Police Bureau constantly saying ‘We just don’t have staffing for that,'” said Portland Police Bureau Deputy Chief Mike Frome. “There’s a way to take care of that — and that’s to ask people for help.”
Frome told law enforcement partners at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police that PPB would return any favors of assistance.
Acting Lt. Mike Roberts joined Wheeler and Frome at the PPB’s North Precinct to answer questions from the press.
“When there is crime, when there is something that needs police attention, call the police,” Roberts said. “We’re stretched pretty thin — we will send resources to what we can and address behavior when we’re able to.”
Roberts said PPB’s response to illegal street racing events will be primarily on a case-by-case basis.
“When we have the resources, we will address the behavior,” Roberts said.
It is unclear exactly how the bureau will determine when or if officers arrest drivers, organizers and participants.
Roberts said the bureau’s actions will rely heavily on pre-event staffing and investigators who work to recognize pop-up street takeovers before they happen.
“These events are enormous sometimes,” he said. “We have thousands of cars, thousands of participants — and we’re not talking about thousands of police.”