Ask Capt. Oliveira: Why Not Stop the Sideshows?

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

“Why does Sac PD seemingly do nothing about the side shows and drag races in North Natomas? Every night (less so in the winter, but literally Every. Single. Night. All summer, spring, and fall) they all collect in the Target parking lot and mill about like it’s a giant tailgate party. They don’t hide it, it’s no secret. Then after dark, usually between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., they race. I hear it from my house a mile away. It’s not like it just popped up out of nowhere in a surprise location. They’re there every night doing the same thing. Do we really just need to wait until someone dies in a high-speed accident? Perhaps until after an innocent pedestrian gets killed? Or can we start to crack down on it now?” -Michael Pens

Capt. Steve Oliveira

Dear Reader,

I understand your frustration with the ongoing issues related to sideshows, drag racing, and reckless driving. This problem is not unique to the Natomas area or the Sacramento region. I’m sure you have seen on the news that it’s a major issue in the Bay Area, especially Oakland and in other cities across the state.

For those who don’t know, sideshows are where crowds gather to watch cars illegally spin donuts, drift, and conduct other reckless driving maneuvers. They often start in large parking lots or warehouse districts where on some occasions people check out cars, like a car show. They often eventually result in a sideshow.

Generally, it’s not an illegal gathering until the illegal driving begins. It’s not unusual for these larger sideshows to end up involving over a hundred cars and even more spectators and move from location to location. Their reckless driving endangers the public and sometimes attracts violent crime. As a matter of fact, there was a large roving sideshow this past weekend involving 100-150 cars and about 300 people that started on Florin Road in the unincorporated area of Sacramento. CHP, the Sheriff’s Department and our agency all responded. Arrests were made, cars towed and even a CHP car was struck by another car. One of our patrol cars was vandalized by the crowd.

These sideshows are a tremendous drain on our resources. We try our best to keep up on them, including our officers following these groups on social media to proactively stop the sideshows before they start. When we have the information on where they will be, we will show up at parking lots as they arrive to discourage the illegal behavior or even attempt to contact promoters to warn of potential ramifications for sponsoring such events.

We also work with business owners, business associations and their security companies to reduce the potential of sideshows occurring on the property. We have conducted joint operations with area law enforcement agencies to target the sideshows which have resulted in people being cited, arrests and/or vehicles impounded. Our air support units in the region are a valuable resource for us to identify violators. Because these sideshows are very mobile and pop up in various locations, we also rely on the community to alert us to them.

I reached out to one of our resident experts, Sgt. Porter, and asked him to provide his input regarding sideshows. Here are some points regarding sideshow enforcement:

  1. If the cars are parked within the business parking lot, then there is no independent enforcement action that SPD can actively engage in since it is occurring on private property.
  2. If the businesses themselves have proper signs posted around the parking lot entrances/exists stating that SPD can enforce the vehicle code (VC) and/or Sacramento city code (SCC) for the vehicles parked only on their property, then SPD may be able to enforce appropriate VC violations observed: most likely vehicle equipment violations.
  3. If the businesses have SPD on file to enforce loitering and/or trespassing laws and the individuals involved have been previously advised about the trespassing and/or loitering, then SPD may be able to enforce appropriate violations upon the individuals they observe and contact.
  4. If the cars are actively engaged in reckless driving (drifting, sliding, burning rubber, exhibition of speed, etc.) or racing on the business premise parking lots and SPD officers observe such activity, then SPD may be able to enforce VC and/or SCC code for appropriate violations up to the possibility of impounding the vehicle used for such activity.
  5. If person or persons are gathered to aid (impede the free public use of the business premise parking lot by acts, words, physical barriers, drivers revving engine or spinning tires) any reckless driving or street racing, then SPD may be able to enforce SCC code for appropriate violations for such involvement.
  6. If the cars are not actively engaged in reckless driving on the business premise parking lot but drive off onto the public street or highway where they do actively engage in reckless driving or racing, then SPD may be able to enforce the VC code for appropriate violations up to the possibility of impounding the vehicle used for such activity.

—Capt. Oliveira

Capt. Steve Oliveira oversees the Sacramento Police Dept.’s north-area command, which includes Natomas. To submit your questions to Capt. Oliveira, send an email to [email protected] with “Ask Capt. Oliveira” in the subject line.

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