More street racing in Los Angeles, but few effective laws

As sideshows and speed contests draw crowds, police warn of dangerous consequences
City Life

Illustration of a speeding blue car with striped orange background


Street racing in Los Angeles is not slowing down, and law enforcement, by its own admission, has largely failed to combat the sometimes deadly high-speed displays. 


Blame a combination of weak laws and young racers who take advantage of that situation, and who also can quickly mount or move speed displays, spreading their message via social media. 


The Los Angeles Police Commission last week heard a report that looked at existing laws and their efficacy in combating racing and sideshow activities such as spinning vehicles quickly in circles, scarring the pavement. It included an analysis showing that some incidents in the first part of 2024 are up significantly over the same period last year.


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The analysis tabulated 176 reports of street racing in the period ending in late May, up 49% from last year. There were 190 documented street takeovers, slightly above the 187 in 2023.


Bar chart on LAPD street race and takeover comparisons through May in 2024 and 2023


“The current legal remedies have had minimal deterrent effect and are not sufficient to adequately combat these crimes,” the report states.


Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Donald Graham told the commission that enforcement tools have limited reach. One problem, he said, is that many racing-related crimes are misdemeanors that are adjudicated in traffic court. These, he added, frequently result in diversion programs that are not tracked well by authorities. 


One potential threat might be vehicle impounds. But Graham said street racers often find ways around this, such as reporting a car being stolen before a race. The analysis detailed 69 impounds so far this year, down 68% from the 214 at the same time in 2023.


Long history

Street racing has long been part of the Southern California landscape, and frustration over dangerous incidents is nothing new. Crosstown last year detailed another LAPD report tabulating complaints about speed contests and sideshows. It found particularly high call volume in the San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles.


The new report says that the number of tickets handed out this year has increased. There were 103 citations for “speed contest” violations, up from 49 in the same time frame last year. The 31 reckless driving violations represents a 138% boost over the same period in 2023.



Graham said the department’s efforts include looking at solutions that would allow activity to occur in a safe, controlled environment. He pointed to municipalities that sanction legal races on dragstrips, or that set up temporary “burn boxes” for sideshow stunts.


The aim, he said, is to find options “so we can peel away the kids who are just interested in the sports part.”


There have been numerous instances where unsanctioned events go wrong. A 24-year-old nursing student was killed at a sideshow in Hyde Park on Christmas Day in 2022 when a driver doing donuts lost control and careened into the crowd. A month later the LAPD announced the arrest of 27-year-old Dante Chapple-Young of Orange County. The District Attorney’s office filed murder charges against Young.


This month, a street takeover in Vermont Vista ended with dozens of people breaking into and stealing from an AutoZone store. 


How we did it: We examined publicly available reports on street racing from the Los Angeles Police Department. Learn more about our data here.


In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.


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