Fresno lawmakers to weigh crackdown on sideshows, street racing

Aiming to increase the penalties for organized displays of reckless driving, a new ordinance would ban even spectators of car sideshows.

Fresno could soon have a new tool to crack down on sideshows and street racing plaguing the city and making its major streets more dangerous than ever. 

Thursday, the Fresno City Council will consider an ordinance for introduction that enacts fresh penalties on virtually anyone participating in sideshows – including spectators.


The big picture: The proposed ordinance outlaws the participation in sideshows and street races by making it illegal to participate as a driver, be a passenger, be a spectator and promote any such events. 

  • Anyone accused of breaking this law would be charged with a misdemeanor that would have a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum of six months in the county jail. 
  • The bill is sponsored by Council Vice President Annalisa Perea and Councilmember Garry Bredefeld and has the support of Mayor Jerry Dyer and Police Chief Paco Balderrama. 

Go deeper: The proposal defines someone being present at a sideshow or street race as being within 300 feet of the event or the site of preparations. 

  • Someone who is a spectator, as defined by the ordinance, is there for the purpose of viewing, observing, watching or witnessing the event. 
  • The proposal specifically clarifies that police officers, medical professionals and firefighters who are working would not be defined as being spectators under the ordinance. 
  • While there are similar laws throughout the state, according to City Attorney Andrew Janz, Fresno does not have any law that deals with promoters or spectators. 

By the numbers: Last year the Fresno Police Department issued 379 citations and arrests related to reckless driving, sideshows and street racing. 

  • There were 62 citations issued for aiding and abetting or blocking the roadway. 
  • The police department also impounded 441 vehicles for related offenses. 
  • Balderrama noted during a Wednesday press conference at City Hall to announce the proposal that the city is on pace to surpass those numbers significantly this year. 

What they’re saying: “The message to these sideshow criminals is this: This will never be tolerated in the City of Fresno, and anyone participating, promoting or attending them will be fully held accountable,” Bredefeld said. 

  • Dyer said the proposal sends a message to anyone who believes that watching a sideshow is perfectly fine just because they are not behind the wheel. 
  • “The adrenaline rush won’t be free,” Dyer said. 
  • Dyer added, “No neighborhood in Fresno is immune from having street racing and sideshows within them,” Dyer said. “This ordinance will help protect the innocent, the mother and her children driving home from a movie unaware of the dangerous race happening at the intersection. Those are the people this ordinance will help protect.”
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