Memphis police see increase in street racing since safer-at-home orders relaxed, several suspects arrested

Updated: May. 11, 2020 at 5:18 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Over Mother’s Day weekend Memphis Police arrested dozens of people for drag racing, speeding and driving recklessly on Memphis Streets.

Law enforcement says the arrests were part of a crackdown.

Memphis Police arrested dozens of people driving dangerously on Memphis streets for a range of offenses.

“We did make a large number of arrests,” director Mike Rallings from the Memphis Police Department said. “(We) Towed about 69 vehicles to individuals that were violating social distancing orders, attempting to drag race or riding ATVs in the streets.”

Several suspects arrested near Shelby Drive, some from as far away as Illinois, admitted to police that they were participating in a “COVID-19 Car Takeover” racing event.

“Sportscar enthusiasts announce these gathering spots and these locations where they’re going to meet over social media,” Col. Keith Watson from the Memphis Police Department said. “That social media post and that information is broadcasted not only here in Memphis and Shelby County but we have encountered individuals as far away as St. Louis, Missouri.”

Memphis Police say they’ve seen an uptick in street racing and illegal car-related events since the safer-at-home orders have been relaxed.

“Here over the last two weeks we’ve dealt with individuals wanting to come out of those homes onto the roadway to showcase their cars and are involved in either some type of illegal reckless driving acts,” said Watson.

Two weeks ago, community activist Hunter Dempster took videos of cars spinning out in a parking lot on Summer Avenue. In one video, you can hear gunshots.

Memphis police say they arrested 14 people, issued 20 citations, 64 traffic tickets and towed 10 vehicles across the city on Saturday, May 2.

“I just want to issue a stark warning to those individuals that the Memphis Police Department will be in full enforcement response to these,” Director Rallings said. “We will arrest you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

One arrest is particularly disturbing.

According to a police affidavit, police say William Smith was driving recklessly, doing donuts in the middle of an intersection and swerving into oncoming traffic at high speeds.

When Smith was pulled over, officers say his 2-year-old son was sitting in the front seat of Smith’s car.

Smith has been charged with child abuse and child neglect.

Memphis Police say when a suspect is caught racing, their car is impounded and the impound lot at the moment is getting pretty full.

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