Car racers turning some neighborhoods into racetrack

Drivers are using your neighborhood as a racetrack, with crowds showing up uninvited for high stakes competition.

The pandemic means fewer cars are on the road. Street racers are taking advantage. And the danger is moving closer to homes.

This has become an unwelcome soundtrack to life in some Seattle neighborhoods.

“We can see them doing doughnuts,” said Jessica Toro, Pioneer Square resident. “And we can see how close they get to a group of kids.”

Street racing is happening in places usually reserved for driving or parking.

“It’s just crazy,” said Truong Nguyen, Pioneer Square resident. “There’s all these kids running up to the cars, and the cars are swirling around them.”

The people who live in Pioneer Square say the crowds and the racers begin showing up right around midnight, prime sleeping time even though, most often, it’s on the weekend.

It may not look like it. But hundreds of people live in this area. And for them, this is a noisy nuisance that they believe is potentially dangerous.

Some of the racing has been on First Avenue South.

“Crazy isn’t it?” said Tija Petrovich. “Yes, anywhere.”

Petrovich is president of the Pioneer Square Residents Council.

“We have it,” said Petrovich. “Belltown has it. West Seattle has it. It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere in the United States. And COVID has made it worse. Streets are empty, parking lots are empty.”

And those who live near these pop-up racing venues are not amused.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game with the police,” said Petrovich. “The thrill of the chase. The stunts. Ugh. Something that for me should not be in a neighborhood, not in a residential area.”

“Yeah, I’ve been woken up, I think it’s now four or five times,” said Jessica Toro.

She says she has called Seattle Police many times.

“In the beginning, they didn’t respond at all,” Toro said. “They gave us the response that, ‘They’re working on it. They’ve had multiple calls.’ But the last one, was it last week? It was like they were waiting for them. It’s like the crew came by. It’s like the officers were like at every point. And they were able to move this entire car racers out in like maybe 15 minutes. It was amazing.”

Seattle police declined to talk to us on camera. They say they are aware of the racing and do respond.

We showed the videos to Jim Fuda, director of law enforcement services for CrimeStoppers of Puget Sound, and a former longtime King County sheriff’s deputy.

Fuda says these racers are breaking the law.

“If you are reckless, or driving negligent or, god forbid, that you run somebody over,” said Fuda, “And now you’ve got a vehicle homicide or DUI.”

Still, he says it can be difficult for police to make the case.

“Here’s what happens,” says Fuda. “If they don’t see it first hand, then if there’s a witness, they can take the witness statement and charge the person through the court. But now is that witness going to show at that time of day? All those come into play.”

For some neighbors, the crime goes well beyond street racing.

“I’m sorry, it includes COVID as well,” insists Truong Nguyen. “No one’s practicing social distancing, of course. No one’s wearing masks. So not only are they endangering themselves with the reckless driving, but they’re also endangering themselves with COVID.”

So far, there are no reports of anyone physically hurt because of this. But it is generating so much anger that no one can be sure that frustrated neighbors won’t simply take matters in their own hands unless the authorities move to stop it.