SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The first major U.S. city to do so, San Jose had made promoting street racing or sideshows a crime, as city leaders continue to crack down on the illegal activity by pursuing every avenue possible.
"San Jose means business," San Jose City Councilmember Maya Esparza told KPIX 5. "We don't want sideshows or street racing in our city."
Esparza co-authored the memo with Councilmember Dev Davis who has had large sideshows organized in her district in recent months.
"Don't do it in San Jose, we are not interested in having any sideshows anywhere in our city," said Davis.
Those who promote sideshows or street racing, whether on social media, phone or word of mouth, can now face fines up to $1,000 and jail time up to six months.
"They've gotten smarter about how they advertise them on social media as well, and so we're really just trying to shut down every single avenue that we can," Davis said. "Sideshows really proliferated during the pandemic."
In just the last six months, San Jose Police reported to members of the City Council that they have responded to 2,421 calls of reckless driving or street racing.
On June 10, Jamie Pech died when he lost control of his car during an illegal street race on Snell Avenue near Capitol Expressway. The 19-year-old's car was wrapped around a tree on the driver's side. Pech died at the scene.
"That's the biggest thing that we're trying to prevent is somebody either getting hurt or killed," said Lt. John Carr Jr. "Unfortunately, there have been a lot of people affected by that."
In 2019, city leaders passed an ordinance making it a crime to be a spectator at a sideshow. Spectators can be fined up to $1,000 and face jail time of six months; similar to the punishment of the latest ordinance.
Esparza said this is just the beginning of a crackdown of the illegal activity. She said money was recently budgeted to purchase automated license plate readers, and to dedicate officers to focus on sideshows.
There are also plans to make the streets tougher for street racers to navigate.
"For transportation infrastructure, like roundabouts and things like that, to deter street racing and sideshows," said Esparza.
The councilmember said they're also seeing an increasing connection between gunfire and sideshows and this latest measure is a message for street racers to hit the road.
"The promoter ordinance is actually part of a larger effort. I had residents that were really living in fear because there were sideshows that were happening in their neighborhood. So we have to put an end to this, and that's part of this message is, don't come to San Jose," Esparza said.
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