The Des Moines City Council last week passed into law an ordinance that outlaws street racing and even makes it illegal to attend those types of events.

This new ordinance – which passed at the council meeting on July 8, 201 – was inspired by recent, dangerous illegal street racing events that have disrupted areas like the Redondo Beach parking lot and area business lots. These events had a sudden increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similar ordinances have been enacted in neighboring cities like Kent.

“We’ve heard the cries from Redondo, we’ve heard the cries from Woodmont, we’ve heard the cries from everybody about what’s going on,” Councilmember Jeremy Nutting said. “Lowe’s up here in Kent spent probably $100,000 retrofitting their parking lot to keep the people out of it … it’s a no brainer.”

The ordinance would make a first offense a class 1 civil infraction, with all subsequent offenses being a misdemeanor.

Here’s an excerpt from the council’s July 8, 2021 presentation on street racing, presented by Assistant City Attorney Matt Hutchins:

“Illegal street racing has a long and often tragic history in this country generally, and in South King County specifically,” the city said in the July 8 council packet. “While unsanctioned street racing has been documented and glorified in popular films and music at least as far back as the 1950’s and more recently in films such as the Fast and the Furious series and Need for Speed, illegal street racing is an extremely dangerous activity that has caused death, injury, and property damage among racers, spectators, and members of the pubic using the public roadways completely unconnected with the race event.”

The new law would also allow the local municipal court to issue “Stay Out of Areas of Racing (SOAR)” orders.

“With the increase in events and the changing patterns of behavior the racers employ to evade detection, Des Moines Police believe we should be prepared for the possibility that Des Moines will see an increase in these sorts of events.”

This new law takes effect on Aug. 7, 2021.

Here’s more from the agenda item in the July 8, 2021 Des Moines City Council packet:

“Less commonly thought about dangers of unsanctioned street racing events come from the crowds that gather to watch, assist, and encourage the races and to socialize and show off their own cars and driving skills by performing stunts such as breaking traction or ‘drifting.’ These crowds, frequently in the hundreds of people, have been known to engage in violence and property destruction, and when discovered by police to engage in obstructive behavior and reckless driving when fleeing the scene.

“During the pandemic, law enforcement agencies in the area have reported a significant increase in illegal racing events. The events have not only increased in number, they have become more brazen and more serious. Racers have been reported to block freeways and to engage in intimidation tactics with police. At one event last August in Renton, three people were reportedly shot, one fatally. With the increase in events and the changing patterns of behavior the racers employ to evade detection, Des Moines Police believe we should be prepared for the possibility that Des Moines will see an increase in these sorts of events. The City has indeed seen at least one such gathering, but quick response by the property owner has put in place security measures that should prevent repeat incidents.

“In response to frequent street racing events, the City of Kent enacted the first illegal street race attendance ordinance in 2001, making it a misdemeanor to attend an illegal street racing event with knowledge that a race was occurring and with the intent to observe, support, or encourage the race. The ordinance also empowered the municipal court to issue an order prohibiting defendants from “no racing zones” in the City. The ordinance is considered to have been very effective in combating street racing. It has been amended through the years to adapt to changing patterns in street racing behavior. A number of cities, largely in South King County and Pierce County, have followed with their own ordinances patterned on Kent’s.

“At the May 6, 2021 Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee meeting, City Staff briefed the committee on the outlines of a potential illegal street race attendance ordinance that could be brought to council. The committee provided comment and direction to return with a draft ordinance to the next meeting. At the June 3, 2021, the committee considered the draft prepared by Staff and directed Staff to bring a draft ordinance forward to the full council and offered additional input. The proposed Draft Ordinance is presented with changes as recommended by the Committee on June 3.”

Text of the full ordinance is below:

CITY ATTORNEY’S FIRST DRAFT 07/01/2021
DRAFT ORDINANCE NO. 21-024

AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF DES MOINES, WASHINGTON relating to public safety, defining and prohibiting attendance at unlawful racing events, and adding a new chapter to Title 9 DMMC entitled Unlawful Race Attendance.

WHEREAS, unsanctioned street racing has created public safety issues in South King County for decades, and

WHEREAS, street racing events frequently occur at night, draw large crowds, and pose danger to both drivers and spectators, as well as the general public, and

WHEREAS, the crowds at illegal street racing events are often accompanied by violent crime, property damage, and large quantities of refuse left behind, and

WHEREAS, South King County cities have adopted ordinances to outlaw attendance at racing events to address the dangers and the costs of crowds attending unlawful race events, and

WHEREAS, these unlawful race attendance ordinances have been effective tools to reduce the incidence of illegal street racing and the attendance at race events, and

WHEREAS, organizers of street racing tend to be adaptable and well-connected through social media, which allows for frequent changes to practices in response to law enforcement efforts, and

WHEREAS, such adapting practices include finding new areas for staging and holding racing events where racers may expect less scrutiny from law enforcement, and

WHEREAS, the expanding footprint of illegal street racing makes it necessary that law enforcement in the City of Des Moines have appropriate tools to address the costs of crowds gathering at street racing events, and

WHEREAS, enactment of an illegal street racing ordinance is necessary and proper to protect the public health, safety and the evironment; now therefore,

THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF DES MOINES ORDAINS AS FOLLOWS:

Sec. 1. Definitions.
As used in this section, unless the context or subject matter clearly requires otherwise, the words or phrases defined in this section shall have the indicated meanings throughout this chapter.
(1) “Prior offense” means a conviction or committed finding for a violation of this chapter or an equivalent ordinance of a municipality of the State of Washington to Section 2 of this Ordinance.
(2) “Public place” means an area, whether publicly or privately owned, generally open to the public and includes, without limitation, the doorways and entrances to buildings or dwellings and the grounds enclosing them, streets, sidewalks, bridges, alleys, plazas, parks, driveways, and parking lots.
(3) “Unlawful race event” means an event wherein persons willfully compare or contest relative speeds by operation of one or more motor vehicles or wherein persons willfully demonstrate, exhibit, or compare speed, maneuverability, or the power of one or more motor vehicles, in a straight or curved direction, in a circular direction, around corners, or in circles in an activity commonly referred to as “drifting,” or by breaking traction.

Sec. 2. Unlawful race attendance – Prohibited.
(1) It is unlawful for any person to be present in an area where an unlawful race event is occurring, has occurred or is about to occur:
(a) who has actual or constructive knowledge that an unlawful race event is occurring, has occurred, or is about to occur, and
(b) is present with the intent to observe, support, encourage, or participate in the unlawful race event.

(2) The circumstances which may be considered in determining whether a violation of subsection (1) of this section has occurred shall include, but not be limited to:
(a) The person is associating with persons racing in an unlawful race event;
(b) The person, by admission, is in attendance of an unlawful race event with the intent to observe, support, encourage, or participate in the unlawful race event;
(c) Statements of other persons who are shown to be in knowing attendance at an unlawful race event which provide evidence that the person intends to observe, support, encourage, or participate in an unlawful race event;
(d) The person takes flight upon the appearance of a police officer;
(e) The person either operates or is a passenger in a vehicle which is driven in such a manner as to show evidence of an attempt to take flight upon the appearance of a police officer;
(f) The person’s conduct demonstrates that he or she is acting as a lookout;
(g) The person possesses, on his or her person or in his or her vehicle, equipment such as a two-way radio or scanner that can be used to alert race participants to law enforcement;
(h) The area where the person is present is known to the arresting officer(s) as an area frequently used for unlawful race events;
(i) Persons present have no reasonable alternative purpose for congregating in a public area at the time the unlawful race event is occurring, is about to occur, or which occurred;
(j) The person has within the past two years been convicted in any court within this state of any violation involving racing, unlawful race attendance, reckless driving associated with racing, or trespass associated with race activity; and
(k) The person is currently subject to an order issued by a court within this state restricting the person’s attendance at unlawful racing events or presence in an area designated as a “No Racing Zone” which was issued in connection with an allegation of racing, unlawful race attendance, reckless driving associated with racing, or trespass associated with race activity.

(3) A violation of this section by a person who has no prior offense is a class 2 civil infraction.

(4) A violation of this section by a person who has one or
more prior offense is a misdemeanor.

Sec. 3. Stay Out of Areas of Racing (SOAR) Orders – Issuance.
(1) The municipal court may issue a SOAR order to any person criminally charged with unlawful race attendance or to any person charged with racing, reckless driving, or trespass where the Court finds a nexus with unlawful race activity as a condition of pre-trial release, sentence, or deferred sentence.

(2) A SOAR order:
(a) Shall prohibit the person subject to the order from attending an unlawful race event as defined by this chapter,
(b) May prohibit the person subject to the order from entering a defined geographic area or areas where unlawful racing activity has been shown to occur, which may include the area where the person was alleged to have been present during the charged offense,
(c) May include any other crime-related conditions the court shall find appropriate, and
(d) Shall bear the statement: “Violation of this order is a criminal offense under section 4 of this ordinance and will subject the violator to arrest.

(3) A person is deemed to have notice of the SOAR order when:
(a) The signature of the person prohibited in the order is affixed to the bottom of the order, acknowledging receipt of the order; or
(b) The order otherwise indicates that either the person or the person’s attorney appeared before the court.

Sec. 4. Stay Out of Areas of Racing (SOAR) Orders – Violation.
(1) Violation of an order issued under section 3 of this ordinance shall be a misdemeanor.

(2) A police officer having probable cause to believe that a person subject to an order issued under section 3 of this ordinance is violating or failing to comply with any requirement or restriction imposed by the court shall have the authority to arrest the person without a warrant.
Sec. 5. Codification. Sections 1 through 4 of this Ordinance shall be codified as a new chapter in Title 9 DMMC, entitled Unlawful Race Attendance.

Sec. 6. Severability – Construction.
(1) If a section, subsection, paragraph, sentence, clause, or phrase of this ordinance is declared unconstitutional or invalid for any reason by any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance.

(2) If the provisions of this ordinance are found to be inconsistent with other provisions of the Des Moines Municipal Code, this ordinance is deemed to control.

Sec. 7. Effective date. This ordinance shall take effect and be in full force thirty (30) days after its passage and approval in accordance with law.

PASSED BY the City Council of the City of Des Moines this ____ day of __________, 2021 and signed in authentication thereof this ____ day of ________, 2021.

Watch the full July 8 City Council meeting here.