LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Drag racing and caravanning are growing hazards on Little Rock streets, leaving police trying to bring enforcement up to speed.
In April, the city’s board of directors passed an ordinance cracking down on the high speed hobbies.
While the ordinance gives police another tool to try and put the brakes on drivers, Working 4 You found records that show enforcement up to this point hasn’t always been consistent.
STREETS TURNED INTO RACE TRACKS
The signs of what’s happening are easy to spot. Tire marks cover intersections and parking lots.
Drivers aren’t hiding their exploits and share dozens of videos online showing cars racing, doing donuts, and drifting.
One video shows a driver drifting in a parking lot while passengers hang out of the windows holding guns, it’s titled “Sunday funday.”
People living downtown have a different view.
“It’s a nuisance, but it’s also very dangerous,” said Adrian James.
James got to see that firsthand while walking his dogs on their downtown block.
“I saw the car come down really fast and spin around as fast as humanly possible. Maybe nine times, just over, and over, and over. Screaming, squealing, leaving black marks in the road,” James recalled. “That was in broad daylight with traffic coming.”
James knows that problem grows when the lights go out and drivers shift into another gear.
POLICE TRYING TO CRACKDOWN
Little Rock Police declined an interview or to comment for this story.
Working 4 You pulled records that show the department uses patrols from what it calls the “Street Crimes Unit.”
Police records show enforcement isn’t always uniform.
During one crackdown in August 2020, officers handed out 306 traffic charges while conducting a joint operation with State Police.
After that, the number of charges handed out every week dropped and has stayed that way through this year.
Some weekends there are more than 60 officers assigned to the patrol, other weekends that number drops to the teens.
In reports, officers explain some of the challenges they’re up against including when they break up one spot drivers move to another.
Several videos posted by drivers online, show officers outnumbered, with sometimes hundreds of drivers and just a couple of officers.
CITY HALL INTERVENES
The ordinance passed by the city targets cars “trespassing,” “caravanning” and “racing.”
Police can give drivers citations for those offenses, which can lead to a hearing in the city’s environmental court and bring a fine of up to $1,000.
Vice-Mayor Lance Hines voted for the ordinance but says he’s concerned about follow-through.
“I think that we’ve got enough teeth in that ordinance, it’s just whether or not they can get out and write the citations,” Hines explained.
He pins it on staffing at the department, with the force losing more officers than its bringing on.
“Having a fully staffed patrol division would go a long way to curtailing some of this stuff, but when you’re down as many officers as we are because our recruiting is not kept up with our attrition,” Hines said.
Only one city director voted against the ordinance, Ken Richardson.
“It’s not a deterrent,” Richardson said. “I’m not excusing caravanning. I don’t think it’s something we should encourage people to do.”
Richardson says street racing and caravanning have been issues in southern parts of the city for years, and fines and citations haven’t slowed drivers down.
“This has been happening here for a while,” he said. “Once they get outside that box and they start getting into other parts of the city, then it becomes a major concern.”
Instead he’s proposing the city focus on long-term solutions.
“We should find alternatives for them to get engrained in and other things to do,” Richardson added.
He says he’s actively looking for possibilities and currently seeing if opening a music studio or lot designated for racing could be options.
SIGNS OF CHANGE
In recent weeks, city crews put up roadblocks for drivers. Several parking lots that had become popular for drifting, now have concrete parking spot dividers. Streets often used in races, now have speed bumps.
It’s a start, but James says he’s seen enough and believes it’ll take more than a fine and a ticket to stop this from spinning out of control.
“I wish there would be a way to lockdown and stop it or prevent it,” he said.