GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Metro Atlanta police have been struggling to control dangerous street racers who block intersections, stop traffic and put innocent bystanders in danger for well over a year.
Those agencies along with the state have tried multiple approaches to put an end to the events and bring a modicum of safety to the people impacted by the problem. Last month, a group of racers heavily damaged Atlanta’s “Rainbow Crosswalk” not once, but twice, forcing the city to put metal plates in the road to keep the racers out.
The Gwinnett County Police Department is one of those agencies trying to stop the ongoing problem. On Friday night, they organized a special detail to patrol for street racers. Channel 2 Action News was invited to follow the officers while they were at work.
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Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spent the night riding with Gwinnett County Police Officer Sgt. Collin Flynn as Flynn and the other officers on this patrol planned their evening, laying out plans to be visible for residents and anyone thinking about street racing.
“We want the public to know that we are out here,” Flynn said. “We’ve got canines and SWAT. We’ve got our aviation folks. We’re out tonight for a specific detail and a specific purpose.”
Sgt. Michele Pihera told Johnson the goal is to send a message through traffic stops by using more officers and more patrols.
“This is a big nuisance to our community,” Pihera said. “What we don’t want to have happen is for it to get any worse.”
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Gwinnett police said an extra 55 officers worked Friday night to look for illegally modified cars and to help with traffic stops.
“So we have not only officers handling the street racing detail, but if we have a larger event, let’s say a homicide or a shooting happens, we’re gonna have even more officers on the road to help assist,” Pihera said.
The night began with a briefing at Gwinnett police headquarters to go over patrol plans. From there, Johnson rode with officers as they made traffic stops near Gwinnett Place Mall, an area where police have responded to street racing incidents in the past.
“We have people coming in and out of businesses and what we don’t want to have happen is somebody to get hurt,” Pihera said.
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Johnson and Sgt. Flynn were on hand for another stop nearby on Pleasant Hill Road, where officers arrested someone with an outstanding warrant.
“When people come up and ask why are there so many police officers, we say there is a special detail tonight,” Flynn said.
The patrol worked through the night, into the early hours of Saturday morning. Officers said with or without the special detail, keeping the roads safe for drivers isn’t just a “one-time” thing.
“It’s something that we are addressing all of the time,” Pihera said.
Gwinnett police are only one of multiple metro Atlanta agencies with ordinances or patrols dedicated to stopping the racers. In 2021, the City of Norcross passed an ordinance allowing their officers to impound cars and fine racers $1000.
In Atlanta, street racers and spectators could be fined up to $1000 or spend up to six months in prison. Atlanta police told Channel 2 in 2021, they gave out 661 citations to people involved in racing in the first nine months of the year.
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