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Kent Police get $15,000 grant to crack down on illegal street racing

Kent Police are planning a big crackdown on illegal street racing this summer because of a $15,000 grant from State Farm insurance to combat the problem.

More than 200 cars gather on summer weekend nights to drag race on streets in the North Kent industrial area, where racers like the straight, flat and empty streets.

It's been an ongoing problem for nearly three decades that police have yet to figure out how to stop.

"We do have emphasis patrols that have gone out in the past," Assistant Chief Derek Derek Kammerzell said at a July 15 City Council meeting after accepting a $15,000 check from State Farm agent Deborah Nelons. "This year we want to be extremely robust in this. We've already had some patrols go out and we are going to continue that throughout the summer."

The racers try to keep an eye out for police and move to another part of North Kent if officers arrive. Often, the police only have a few cars and cannot catch very many violators.

"I don't want to discuss the tactics but we're trying some new tactics this year to hopefully round up and get a lot more enforcement action to deter what we have," Kammerzell said.

Police conducted three crackdowns in August and September last year that resulted in 131 contacts and 101 traffic infractions. Officers also issued 39 equipment violations, 14 for no insurance and arrested two for reckless driving.

Those extra patrols were covered by a $3,750 grant from State Farm to pay for officers extra shifts. The larger grant this year expects to boost patrols a lot.

"It's five times the amount we got last year so we're very appreciative," Kammerzell said.

The State Farm Companies Foundation provides the money to communities in an effort to improve auto safety and make driving safer for teens.

"Each year we take grant requests and review the ones that best fit our focus on auto safety," said State Farm spokesman Brad Hilliard. "We're looking for programs that benefit teen driving through teaching to drive or in this case to deter illegal street racing.

"We're supportive of the work Kent Police has done and the efforts they are putting into this. As an insurance company, we can help prevent this. We've worked with the Kent Police and are happy with the progress and that's why we increased the contribution."

Kent has a Stay Out of Areas of Racing (SOAR) ordinance which makes it illegal to be in any SOAR identified area. Despite the law, racers continue to show up and race, especially on hot summer nights.

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