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Police department plans to slow illegal street racers

Street racing is becoming a growing problem that the Sunnyside Police Department is planning on putting the brakes on.

At least that was the message Police Captain Phil Schenck brought to the table during this past Monday's Sunnyside City Council meeting.

During the April 5 Council meeting, Sunnyside resident Carol Stone presented members with a petition signed by 41 residents who wanted the city to stop illegal street racing in their neighborhoods. Stone said an area of concern included the neighborhood near Sunnyside Community Hospital.

In response to Stone's presentation, Schenck pulled together his department staff and looked at ways to address the racing problem.

"We can't deal with the problem in a reactive mode," said Schenck. "Our response has to be proactive."

Schenck said he plans to address the racing issue in much the same way the police department responds to gangs, with strict enforcement and hopefully community support.

Currently, Schenck is looking at modifying the city's noise ordinance to curb the problem of loud, modified exhaust systems. Schenck is also looking at addressing loud stereos in cars through the city's unnecessary noise ordinance. Schenck is planning to borrow some of the wording from a City of Yakima ordinance dealing with unnecessary noise.

Schenck said the cars involved with street racing aren't cruising through town at this point, but rather they gather at different spots. Schenck said his officers will be doing zero tolerance enforcement with the issue. Officers will be camped out at the various locations where the alleged racers hang out to hopefully curb their impulse to race, said Schenck.

The Sunnyside police captain also said that his officers will be citing people who host such racing events.

Schenck is also planning on doing enforcement by utilizing unmarked police cars. The problem the police department is having right now is that the people involved with the street racing have walkie-talkies and watch for any police vehicles. Schenck said hopefully by utilizing unmarked police cars his officers will be able to crash these street racing gatherings.

Schenck said the police department had notable success last weekend with enforcement efforts.

Councilman Don Vlieger brought forth the suggestion that the city implement an ordinance saying it will impound any person's vehicle cited for racing.

"Let's send a message," said Vlieger. "You race and your car goes to jail."

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