Proposed San Antonio ordinance would target spectators of illegal street races

Violators could face $500 fine

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio City Council will soon consider a new ordinance that add penalties for spectators of illegal street racing events. The measure was approved by the council’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

If approved by the full council, the act of intentionally or knowingly being a spectator at an illegal street racing event would become a misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine.

The proposal follows two state laws which took effect in September targeting the issue. The city ordinance is based on a similar one in Dallas, according to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

“These events are extremely dangerous. They’re dangerous to the motoring public, too dangerous to people who may be in the parking lot where they’re gathering and doing their donuts and burnouts and all that,” the chief said.

Police have responded to 213 reported street racing incidents since Sept. 2020, according to statistics presented at the meeting. Officers have issued 276 citations and made 116 arrests.

McManus told council members that the number of large street racing events have been virtually eliminated in recent months, following a couple of key arrests.

“We’ve impounded a number of vehicles, and I think the folks who were were involved in this and I think they were repeat offenders,” McManus said. “I think that they got the message that, ‘You know, don’t go to San Antonio’ because a lot of these folks were coming from out of town.”

Some council members raised questions about whether innocent bystanders would be targeted for citations under the proposed ordinance. McManus said that shouldn’t be a concern because officers usually can point out who is involved with an illegal street race and who isn’t.

While the large incidents may have been reduced, isolated incidents remain a problem on San Antonio streets. Council members said they continue to receive complaints.

“People hear the revving of the engines at night or they’re coming home from work from a late shift and they see it happening, or a close call” said District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda, who is chair of the Public Safety Committee. “We don’t even know about all the many times that happens because, you know, it just it happened so quickly.”

Police said they were monitoring social media and have talked to track owners about the potential of hosting would-be street racers.

The full council will discuss the proposed ordinance at a later meeting.

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About the Author:

Samuel King anchors traffic during GMSA and reports on transportation and mobility issues across the San Antonio region. He joined the KSAT 12 news team in 2020 from KUT in Austin. Samuel was born in Queens, spent time growing up in South Alabama and graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.