The thrill of burning rubber, along with a deep adoration for fast cars, keeps the weekly takeovers of Dallas streets and parking lots going. Those responsible call themselves swingers, referring to how their cars whip around when they do donuts surrounded by spectators. Their events are called side shows.
“We all come together at least once a week,” says a local swinger who operates the Instagram account @TSNLSDallas. “We forget our problems at home or work and it’s our stress reliever. Everyone is welcomed here.”
But that’s not the city of Dallas’ take on the swingers.
The drivers have been playing cat and mouse with the Dallas Police Department and the city for a few months as their takeovers become larger and more frequent. According to DPD, which doesn't distinguish between swingers and racers, around 2,000 street racers are out on any given weekend in Dallas. There are more participants than ever, the department says, and often several events are taking place at the same time across the city.
Opponents, including the police department, city officials and residents, say the sideshows are a dangerous nuisance and want them to end.
TSNLSDallas, as it’s called on Instagram, became one of the main organizers of these events throughout last year. “[It] started in March of 2020,” the Instagram user says. “We became the face of Dallas sideshows in the past 11 months.”
In that time, the swingers have become experts at evading the police. “We know how to move. We are always a step ahead," TSNLSDallas says. "Why do you think we last 30 minutes plus at each intersection?”
When DPD brings out its helicopter, the swingers just set up a spot near Love Field Airport where they say the cops can’t fly choppers overhead because planes are landing and taking off.
Though they’re good at it, they don’t want to have to run from the cops. They say their goal is to become a legal operation with their own lot to host sideshows on. In the meantime, they say they're not afraid of getting caught by the police.
Still, any trouble they get in with the law is a sacrifice they’re willing to make. TSNLSDallas says: "We aren’t scared because what we do isn’t meant to kill or hurt anyone. It’s our sport and the streets is our court. The troubles that come with this should be worth it if we were to ever go legal.”
The city has looked into different ways to crack down on the car stunts. In December, City Council voted against redesignating street racing calls in an attempt to get cops on the scene faster. They had success with making these calls higher priority in the past, but to redesignate them any further would have made enforcement more dangerous, says Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association.
Instead, Mata wants the city to make it easier for DPD to seize the vehicles as evidence. As ordinances stand, the department has not been able to seize any cars for an extended period of time. Mata isn't for making what the swingers do legal. “You’re re-enforcing bad decisions and bad behavior. When did we decide as a society that that’s OK?”
Ultimately, he fears for people's safety. “A lot of these individuals are not trained drivers who know how to do this," Mata says. "They’re just learning by the day as they come, and that’s a very dangerous recipe.”
As for the dangers, TSNLSDallas argues that cigarettes and alcohol kill more people than events like sideshows.
Another swinger, who wished to only be identified as McLovin, admitted there is a certain amount of danger that comes along with what they do. However, McLovin insists that TSNLSDallas events only allow swingers with recognizable handles to participate. McLovin has been swinging since 2019.
“They don’t let anyone that isn’t known for their handles in the pit. Plus they know who can swing and who can’t,” McLovin, says. “Not every driver is trusted if they can’t swing they get kicked out cause they want nobody hurt.”
But some aren't convinced. City Council member David Blewett said some of these street stunt incidents are life-threatening.
For example, Anga Sanders, president of the Kiest Forest Estates Neighborhood Association, told the City Council last year that cars ended up in her yard on two separate occasions. One of them wound up just a few feet from her bedroom wall.
Some council members have suggested directing the swingers and street racers to other venues, like local tracks, which isn't a completely original idea. Atlanta has even entertained designating certain areas for drag racing per the recommendation of the mayor’s 18-year-old son, according to CBS . Legal sideshows are also happening in California and Michigan.
But council member Carolyn King Arnold said the city shouldn’t have to create a PR campaign to direct racers to local tracks. “They know where to go,” she said. She also doesn’t support any developments for racing in the city.
The swingers, though, say they don’t have a spot to do their thing. Most, if not all available spaces, are meant for drag racing, not swinging. “The tracks don’t drift," TSNLSDallas explains. "They race. We need a pit for what we do.”
If given the opportunity, TSNLSDallas says the swingers would put up barriers on their lots to prevent people from getting hurt and make the drivers sign liability waivers. “All we want is a legal lot. We don’t mind where it’s at or how it looks. We can fix it,” they say. “We want our people to have a place to come and enjoy what we do. Soccer players have fields, basketball players have courts, so give us our legal pad is all we ask from the city."