It was a busier than normal summer for Kent Police trying to crack down on illegal street racing that has spread throughout the city and led to large gatherings in parking lots at Dick’s Drive-In, LA Fitness and other businesses.
“Earlier this year we started to see an increase in illegal street racing and large crowds taking advantage of the lockdown order to hang out at closed businesses,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla told the City Council at its Sept. 15 remote meeting. “They were bigger than normal size crowds.”
Racers often gather late at night or early in the morning, typically on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Dick’s Drive-In and Lowe’s parking lots on the West Hill near Pacific Highway South and South 240th Street have become a new meeting place. Racers have used streets in the north Kent industrial area for decades but now spread to the West Hill and even East Hill.
“Dick’s Drive-in has become a popular gathering spot and its parking lot with Lowe’s,” Padilla said.
The LA Fitness parking lot just south of Willis Street (State Route 516) and west of Highway 167 is another hangout.
Kent Police had four emphasis patrols on weekends in July and August that resulted in 407 vehicles that officers were able to stop and contact the drivers, 42 arrests (including several DUIs), 148 tickets, six vehicle impounds and two stolen vehicles recovered.
“Those are staggering numbers,” Padilla said. “After the first couple of weeks of emphasis, they learned that Kent is not the place to come to, and racers moved to other areas. We saw the numbers go down.”
The racing has spread to other cities.
“In more recent weeks it’s become a greater regional issue,” Padilla said. “We have partnered with Washington State Patrol and others to pool resources and address it as a regional effort. It’s really taken off in the south end of Pierce County.”
Forty-two officers and troopers were part of a multiple law enforcement agency (including Kent Police) crackdown on illegal street racing over Labor Day weekend in South King County. The emphasis took place to address the ongoing issue of vehicle’s congregating to illegally block roadways and street race among other things, according to a Sept. 10 Washington State Patrol press release.
Padilla said racers have blocked Highway 167, Interstate 5 and I-405. They have surrounded and attacked officers and troopers who initially intervened.
“There’s been an increase in the number of racers and the violence associated with it,” Padilla said.
More than 200 vehicles gathered at a shopping center parking lot in the 500 block of South Grady Way in Renton on Aug. 30 when D’Andre Flynn, 25, of Kent, died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. Two others were injured by gunshots at the same event. Renton Police continue to look for suspects in the shootings.
Kent racer emphasis patrols
• 26 contacts
• 8 arrests/misdemeanor citations, 1 DU
• 29 citations
• 3 verbal warnings
July 31-Aug. 1
• 45 contacts
• 25 arrests/misdemeanor citations
• 63 citations
• 5 vehicle impounds
• 20 contacts
• 2 arrests/misdemeanor citations
• 35 citations
• 1 vehicle impound
• 316 contacts
• 7 arrests/misdemeanor citations
• 21 citations
• 1 recovered stolen vehicle
Source: Kent Police Department