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Flint, MI—Drivers may want to think twice before drag racing in Flint.
At the July 27 meeting, Flint City Council approved the first reading of a set of ordinances that enact harsher penalties for drag racing. According to the ordinances, drag racing is defined as two or more vehicles driving at “a speed or acceleration contest or for the purpose of making a speed record.”
The ordinances would need to be approved at the second reading at the next regular city council meeting in order to be adopted. There is expected to be a public hearing on the proposed ordinances on August 9, the next regular council meeting.
The new proposed ordinances classify drag racing and other related dangerous activity as a public nuisance. Because of this classification, Flint police would be authorized to impound and seize all property related to drag racing, including vehicles and trailers, and holding the vehicle owner liable.
According to a May 12 press release from Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s office, the property seized would be sold to allow the City of Flint to recover costs including towing and storage fees as well as the cost of maintaining the property and of prosecuting the case. Any remaining balance or surplus would be deposited in the City of Flint’s general fund or as directed or ordered by the Court.
The previous ordinances classified drag racing as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $250 to $500, or by up to 90 days of imprisonment.
The ordinances have been on the agenda since the May 10 council meeting. According to the May 12 press release, Mayor Neeley proposed these ordinances to “hit them where it hurts.”
“Our neighborhoods are being terrorized by these thrill seekers. They are breaking the law and endangering innocent bystanders’ lives,” Mayor Neeley said. “Let’s hit them where it hurts by taking away their instruments of terror. Let’s take away their cars.”
At the May 10 council meeting, Councilman Eric Mays proposed sending this ordinance back to committee meetings for amendments including language related to progressive punishments. At the July 27 council meeting, Mays had concerns over who held discretion over the drag racing cases.
Chief Attorney Angela Wheeler said although she and her office would have discretion over any drag racing cases, “some action will rise to that level and some will not.”
Councilman Maurice Davis had concerns about how the police would obtain “validating proof” of ownership of the vehicle by the person who was drag racing because the impoundment of a shared car may hurt more than the person who was drag racing.
He said this ordinance would cause more hardships for his ward in the “poor Black side of town” where people may not own their car or insurance. Davis said that he hopes there will be more police officers patrolling this ward and enforcing the law before the ordinance is passed.
“To take somebody’s car for forfeiture, knowing that the state police always pull over black folks 20 times more than a person of a different nationality, that’s my issue,” Davis said. “This is a hardship to black folks and that’s why I want to postpone it to make sure it’s fair.”
Councilwoman Eva Worthing said drag racing is prevalent in all wards and she hopes the ordinance passes so that she can help “keep the city safe.”
Councilman Santino Guerra said that he approved this ordinance because he saw an incident of drag racing on a residential road and he believes it occurred because “they feel like there’s really no consequence for them.”
“I think that this will help kind of prevent that, because once people start getting in trouble for it and the ordinance is actually effective, people will notice that, and say hey, maybe I shouldn’t do that,” Guerra said.
The council voted 5-1-1 on the first reading of the ordinance. Councilman Davis was the lone dissenting vote and Councilman Mays abstained from voting.