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Car Enthusiasts Defend Drag Racing Rallies, Say Problem Will Just Move Elsewhere In Event Of Crackdown At McKinley Park Lot

CHICAGO (CBS) -- One of the many drivers who uses a parking lot in McKinley Park for drag racing had defiant words Thursday night.

On Wednesday night, CBS 2's Charlie De Mar first exposed the dangerous car rallies angering neighbors. A night later, drivers told De Mar they are not going anywhere.

Lat year, there were 1,000 calls to 911 for drag racing in the Deering (9th) District. Police call it the biggest problem facing the area right now.

But those behind the wheel say pushing them from parking lots will make the problem worse.

For years, car culture has taken over the Riverside Plaza near Ashland and Archer avenues. Daniel Franklin is among the car enthusiasts who comes to the plaza parking lot – he started the Metal Militia Motor Club.

"We aren't trying to hurt anyone. We're not trying to cause any trouble. We're not trying to bother people," Franklin said. "We just need a spot to be able to host stuff."

But people are bothered, and the McKinley Park parking lot may soon be a meetup of the past. New swinging gates are coming, and more security and license plate readers will be installed to target repeat offenders.

Richard Flores of Rack Em Entertainment – a different car club – said that is not going to stop the auto enthusiasts.

"No, it's not. It's going to stop it right here, maybe, for a little bit," Flores said. "They're going to kick us out of here, we'll go to another location. It's not going to stop."

Flores said the meet-ups give teens an alternative.

"Instead of having them out there joining a gang and getting in trouble, they're out here working and fixing their cars," he said.

During a community meeting Thursday night, Deering District Sgt. John Verta said calls for drag racing in the district are up roughly 27 percent compared to this time last year.

"I would say the number one problem addressing the district right now is drag racing," Verta said.

And there have already been 24 crashes this year on busy Ashland Avenue outside the plaza.

"I think it's going to make the problem move around a little bit more," Franklin said. "Even though it's considered illegal, it's best if it's just left in one location."

"I bring my family. I bring my kids," Flores added. "If I thought it was dangerous, I wouldn't bring my kids."

In other cities such as the Motor City of Detroit, car enthusiasts have been given a designated lot or area to meet. There was no word late Thursday that would even be entertained in Chicago, but it does seem like there is a big effort to put an end to it in the lot at Ashland and Archer.

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