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San Francisco police chief promises accountability, but so far no arrests in Sunday sideshows

San Francisco police on Monday said they're working to identify the criminals behind wheel at the wild sideshows that took over city streets early Sunday morning, but no arrests have been made so far.

Stunning video of the incident showed the dangerous scene on the Embarcadero with cars doing donuts surrounding a burning vehicle as spectators waved laser pointers and launching fireworks into the sky.

SFPD Chief William Scott said officers "are working to hold people accountable" in a social media video released by the department on Monday afternoon. He also said said the investigations "are far from over."

Earlier Monday, KPIX requested an interview with police regarding the sideshows that took over the Embarcadero and the Mission District early Sunday morning. Several hours later, an officer responded to the inquiry with a link to the video. 

"I want to be absolutely clear. These illegal events are unacceptable in our city," Scott said in the video. "We will be working to hold people accountable, and impound vehicles in the coming days and weeks."

Scott also urged the public to call 911 if they ever witness a side show, while also asking witnesses to share videos with police to assist in investigations.

In a social media post on Monday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed also condemned the activity. 

"Sideshows are illegal and dangerous," the post read. "SFPD is actively working to impound vehicles, hold people accountable, and send a clear message that [this] behavior is not acceptable in our city."   

Video from early Sunday morning showed multiple sideshows in San Francisco and Oakland, including a car on fire in front of Pier 1.

Another sideshow was reported in the Mission District near Valencia and Cesar Chavez streets, where a building was vandalized, according to police.

Oakland police initially offered no comment on the sideshows that took place there early Sunday morning, but on Tuesday confirmed that five people were arrested in connection with the activity. Officers also towed multiple vehicles and seized several firearms.

KPIX also requested interviews with Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Hilary Ronan, who represent the two neighborhoods impacted by the sideshow activity. Peskin's Chief of Staff said Peskin was unavailable, while Ronen's office did not respond to the request.

Mission District resident Michelle King said she is still shocked by the dangerous stunts, even after living in the neighborhood for 40 years.

"I've experienced these sideshows and I was kind of blown away by it, actually. There were so many kids just surrounding the vehicles that were going a gazillion miles per hour," said King. "I've never seen anything that fast and it seemed extremely dangerous. But I understood that it seemed very much an exciting event for the kids that were witnessing it. I just hope everybody stays safe."

A resident who lives in the Embarcadero said she felt helpless.

"Each time, it's very unnerving. As a resident and taxpayer, it sickens me," said Catherine, who declined to give her last name. "Like most people, we just have to tolerate it. By that I mean to say, you can't go to the police, because right now they're understaffed and what are they going to do about it?"

Other cities across the Bay Area have taken an aggressive approach to sideshows. Authorities in Stockton impounded nearly 90 vehicles at a sideshow in February, largely bringing sideshows in the San Joaquin County town to an end for more than three months. 

In April, Antioch's Mayor said police used drones to record information about participants and spectators following a sideshow on Easter Sunday Morning.

"The residents of Antioch deserve to live in peace, and we don't need punks like this showing up at our doorstep disturbing the peace," Antioch Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe said in April. "These sideshows are dangerous. We have had sideshows that have killed people in the city of Antioch."  

In December of 2023, Hayward City Council approved a law where sideshow spectators could be cited or jailed for up to six months.

In November of 2022, San Jose police blocked cars in place during a sideshow. Officers handed out 720 citations and impounded at least 20 cars. Two stolen cars and a ghost gun were also recovered. 

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