If you’re under 17 and out in Dallas past midnight, you’d better pump the brakes. Last week, Dallas Police Department announced it would start a drive to boost enforcement of the city's juvenile curfew following a recent increase in crime, including street racing.
Stephanie Keller Hudiburg, executive director at Deep Ellum Foundation, said she supports the move.
“We, like most places in the city, have seen an occasional street racing episode,” she said. “But that’s why it’s important for us to work with our counterparts, because if it’s not in one area, it will pop up in another.”
Since the pandemic began, many Dallas residents have noticed a rise in street racing incidents, some of which have resulted in injuries and deaths. To help counter such activity, police have been working with other local authorities to put speed bumps in racers’ paths, both figuratively and literally.
The temporary enforcement drive, which began last Friday, will continue through the end of the month and cover Deep Ellum, Farmers Market, West End, Victory Park, Uptown and the Central Business District. The curfew applies to those caught in a public place on Fridays and Saturdays from 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. and Sundays from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Curfew breakers will be detained by an officer until they can be identified. After that, they’ll be released to a guardian or taken to the Letot Center, a co-educational facility.
In addition, the Transportation and Public Works departments will be coordinating street closures and installing “traffic calming devices” downtown.
Keller Hudiburg said she noticed a marked difference since the curfew was enforced.
“We did see lower juvenile activity in the Deep Ellum area,” she said.
Last weekend, no citations were issued for curfew violations, said DPD spokeswoman Tamika Dameron.
Street racing is a problem in Dallas, Dameron continued, and even the spectators are subject to penalty. Approximately 300 citations and arrests have been made over the past two weekends in connection with street racing, she said.
Bryan Place resident Raheel Merchant said he’s noticed an uptick in the sport ever since he first saw doughnut skid marks on his street in July. He’s also recently heard the sound of revving engines when out with friends in Deep Ellum.
Merchant said he used to love street racing, especially as depicted in the Fast and Furious movies. He’s not particularly bothered by it so as long as the drivers are mindful of their surroundings, he said.
“As long as everyone’s safe and you’re not idiots about it, I could care less,” Merchant said. “But the problem is that if you do it on the street, the potential of hurting somebody increases.”
In addition to the curfew, some City Council members have led the push to temporarily remove scooters from the streets of Dallas. Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano said in a statement last week that riders frequently use the scooters inappropriately and in "dangerous corridors."
Councilmember David Blewett supports the ban, too, saying that some scooter riders become spectators at street racing events, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Still, Dameron said that the department cannot confirm any link between scooters and crime. The scooter ban was ultimately meant to ensure that scooter companies would abide by the mandated operating hours, she said.
“The department has seen various scooters during racing/speeding exhibitions in the downtown area, but can’t say with certainty that the operator's scooters are working in connection with the speeders or just coincidental due to the proximity to downtown,” Dameron wrote in an email.
In May, the DPD published a video expounding the dangers of street racing following the death of one participant earlier this year. Police Sgt. Christopher Barzyk said the phenomenon is becoming increasingly problematic for law enforcement in the city and nationwide.
Consequences for racing include spending up to 180 days in jail, having one’s car towed and being issued a citation with fines up to $2,000, Barzyk said in the video.
“This reckless act that some call a sport continues to impact the residents of our city. This has got to stop,” he said. “Street racing not only jeopardizes the lives of the participants, but it jeopardizes the lives of the spectators and even worse, the innocent bystander who is just trying to make their way from point A to point B.”
Keller Hudiburg said that part of the street racing and scooter problems in Deep Ellum could stem from the fact that young people who are bored decide to go there to kill time. Although the pandemic has put a spotlight on the issues, they aren’t exactly new, she said.
Moving forward, Keller Hudiburg said her foundation is looking to create programming for the area’s youths so they have things to do during the summer. The city needs to come together to provide them meaningful opportunities, she said.
“We’re in this unique moment with COVID-19 where we’re facing really different challenges, like many urban areas across the country,” Keller Hudiburg said. “So we have to work together to find solutions to keep our communities safe.”