Loud cars racing at night? Police say despite what you hear, it’s not in Renton anymore.
After closing Oakesdale Avenue Southwest, the major racing road in the industrial valley within Renton city limits, Renton Police say there’s been no racing on its side. However, racing on State Route 167 and in Kent and Tukwila continues to cause noise disruption to residents.
For years Renton was plagued with street racing, Traffic Control Cmdr. Dan Figaro said. The department tried extra patrol units and aggressive traffic enforcement, but racing kept on.
Renton started emphasis patrols in May 2018. The department blocked off portions of Oakesdale Avenue Southwest, Southwest 34th and Southwest 27th streets, except for during inclement weather.
Figaro said they close the roads at night with signage and patrol officers. The department also has a few valid trespass notices in some industrial parking lots. Figaro said racers moved out of Renton after closing those streets likely because the industrial area, limited traffic and long open roads are the only places they could do this without encountering a lot of traffic. The department has not had to take any action or seen racing since this began.
“As far as racing in Renton, we just don’t see it. That’s not to say you can’t hear it,” Police Chief Ed VanValey told the City Council at the Nov. 4 Committee of the Whole meeting.
At the regular council meeting, a resident came in to express concerns about drag racing, unaware of the presentation from the police chief from earlier that night. Carl Kiminky had come to the council before with concerns about late-night racing.
Kiminky said he sees cars race in Renton and move to Kent when the police arrive. He wanted to know why officers couldn’t partner with Kent and other agencies and “make it tough” for racers. He also said he believes he hears gunshots at the end of racing.
“I’m not going to give up. I’ll be back again if it keeps up,” Kiminky said.
Mayor Denis Law told Kiminky after his comments the council had discussed this at the committee meeting and would refer him to the police department.
Figaro said this has pushed the racers outside city limits, but the department partners a few times over the summer with Kent, Tukwila, Auburn and Washington State Patrol about the racing, and by request of other agencies during the rest of the year.
“We all kind of come to a border there: Kent, Renton and Tukwila. So anything that can happen in one can drift over to another,” Figaro said. “And people don’t really see the boundaries.”
In May 2018, Renton Police Cmdr. Chad Karlewicz told the Renton Reporter that they were using this approach to push racers out of Renton, “to go and be somebody else’s problem.” Before this, the department had arrested as many as 218 people in one night over racing.
VanValey said they still get calls about noise from residents, but not as many.
Two gas stations in Renton near SR 167 still see hundreds of parked cars, as well as a 7-Eleven off Oakesdale and Southwest 43rd Street. VanValey said any action by the police department would require a decision by the property owner. It isn’t racing, but VanValey said it does create a lot of traffic.
Councilmember Ruth Pérez said the gas stations are still concerning being on Renton’s borders and asked if the department was partnering with Kent. VanValey said at the meeting that Kent doesn’t have the staffing to shut down streets and the business owners on their side also do not wish to stop the high volume of cars parking at their businesses.
Council President Don Persson asked VanValey if Renton officers have done enforcement on cars with a modified exhaust. VanValey said there is a penalty that officers can determine by sound and photos, but if the driver changes it by the time they get to court the ticket can be waived.
Over the years, Figaro said racing in Renton has also led to some serious accidents, which is part of why they’ve worked to reduce it.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the Renton Reporter website