Kent Police and city leaders hope new state laws that start Jan. 1, 2024 will help stop illegal street racing in town, such as the incident on May 21 when five men were shot and injured during a gathering of hundreds of people.
In a statement issued May 22 in response to the incident at South 180th Street and East Valley Highway near the Renton border, Kent Police said steps can be taken now and more can be done once the new laws begin.
”Illegal street racing continues to impact the valley, the region and many parts of this nation,” according to the statement. “These events have escalated with a disregard for public safety, property damage and dangerous criminal behavior. The city of Kent and the Kent Police Department have continued to strategize on ways to combat this ongoing problem.
“Our tactics have changed in response to those who promote, participate and spectate these illegal events. We will continue to aggressively leverage the current state law as well as our established city codes. These laws prohibit attending street races anywhere in the city of Kent, reckless driving, disorderly conduct and trespassing.”
Mayor Dana Ralph and Police Chief Rafael Padilla have invested a significant amount of energy and commitment on educating legislators and testifying in front of committees in Olympia for law changes like Senate Bill 5606, according to the statement.
”They are grateful for the legislators that assisted in passing this legislation,” according to the statement about the measure signed into law May 4 by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The new laws take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, and provide clarification and help in impacting illegal street racing.
”These clarifications are new tools that will aid us in our enforcement of this illegal activity,” according to police.
Street racing laws
• Updates the definition of gross misdemeanor racing in RCW 46.61.530 to include drifting and other stunt driving (Drifting is the latest craze where drivers spin their vehicles in the middle of intersections, such as the May 21 incident in Kent)
• Racing is a crime on both public roadways and upon any private property that is publicly accessible
• Anyone who aids/abets illegal racing may be charged as an accomplice
• Clarifies that racing charges can be prosecuted in either the jurisdiction where racing occurred or where the event was planned, organized and promoted
• Encourages law enforcement agencies to undertake a public education campaign about the dangers and illegality of street racing
• Updates state impound laws to allow vehicles used in racing to be impounded with a 72-hour hold
• Allows for the seizure/forfeiture of racers’ vehicles upon a second or subsequent racing conviction.