The San Francisco Police Department impounded 11 vehicles and cited 10 people following a rowdy 100-vehicle sideshow at Dolores and 30th streets in the wee hours of Jan. 24, the department said on Thursday.
That means police pulled off what they’ve often struggled to do in months past: Break up an illegal sideshow and hold some participants accountable.
Sideshows are events in which drivers block off an intersection while other cars take turns doing donuts, throwing burning rubber smoke into the air and waking up residents with the noise. As sideshows have become more frequent in San Francisco over the past year, so too have reports that police have been caught flat-footed when responding.
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Mission Local reported in September that police were standing by and watching a sideshow at Mission and Persia streets moments before a shooting broke out within the fray, killing one man and critically wounding two others.
Weeks later, Supervisor Ahsha Safai introduced legislation that would allow the city to impound the cars of participants, which the Board of Supervisors passed unanimously in October. Meanwhile, Chief Bill Scott formed a “Stunt Driving Response Unit,” a dedicated team of officers who are trained to respond to sideshows.
The two measures appear to have been at work at 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 24. Officers from the response unit arrived at the intersection of 30th and Dolores streets and observed “more than 100” cars gathered to watch drivers doing donuts in the intersection, according to police.
The officers ordered the participants to disperse. While most of them complied, 11 vehicles were abandoned and police were able to impound them. Their owners — all from Oakland, San Leandro, Castro Valley, Petaluma, Antioch, Santa Rosa, San Mateo and Stockton — were cited.
“Stunt driving events are a dangerous trend that poses especially grave risks to a city a densely populated as San Francisco,” Scott said in a statement. “And the fact that most of these violators are very young, inexperienced drivers makes this trend especially worrisome.”
Members of the Board of Supervisors also appeared relieved that the enforcement on Dolores Street was successful.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she was “encouraged” by Scott’s new sideshow response team.
“Sideshows and illegal stunt driving have become an increasingly dangerous problem in District 9,” she said. “Not only are these activities extremely unsafe for the participants, they’ve been associated with burglaries and shootings that endanger the public.”
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents residents in the area of Dolores and 30th streets, was also pleased with the response.
“I’m grateful to the SFPD’s Stunt Driving Response Unit for quickly resolving the recent stunt driving incident on Dolores Street in my district before anyone was seriously injured,” he said.