PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland police responded to a chaotic scene Sunday as hundreds raced in popular high-traffic spots in the city. Police say such street takeovers are an ongoing issue that put lives at risk.
Authorities say the event on Oct. 29 was likely one group moving from place to place. PPB officers were called to street takeovers on the top deck of the Fremont Bridge, Moda Center, Lloyd Center, and the Expo Center — where they found skid marks covering the ground in giant loops.
All were routes that could have made it difficult for first responders to get to nearby hospitals like Legacy Emanuel.
“When it first started out, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 participants doing takeovers, taking over intersections, doing that street sliding,” PPB Sgt. Kevin Allen said. “We know how serious it is and we know how inconvenient it is for people who are trying to get where they’re going.”
PPB says with resources across the bureau, including North and East Precinct officers, K9 unit and air support, they performed a street takeover mission that took seven people into custody — including two teenagers — and towed three cars. Charges ranged from DUII to attempting to elude police and unlawful possession of a firearm.
“For the first time that we can remember, they were able to capture every car that eluded a traffic stop on this mission,” Allen said. “Typically, we have people that try to run from us and we catch some of them and we don’t catch some of them. In this case, we were able to catch everybody who ran from us.”
In September, a new Oregon law went into effect with harsher penalties for racing and takeovers. A recent City of Portland ordinance also makes it easier for PPB to have tow the cars involved.
“For a lot of folks, getting a traffic ticket is not a big deterrence for them. But if they lose their vehicle? That is a big deterrence. That is something they don’t want to see happen,” Allen said.
However, officials say they hope the biggest deterrent will be knowing just how quickly things can turn dangerous.
“It can be a blink of an eye where you’re having a great time because you’re free and having fun, you’re sliding around, and then all of a sudden somebody’s been hit and killed. We’ve seen it over and over and over again,” Allen said. “This is not just hypothetical ‘something might happen.’ This is happening. People are dying because of behavior like this.”
There have been at least 56 traffic-related fatalities within the City of Portland this year. PPB says they’re working to get an exact number, but some of those deaths are attributed to street racing.