Police presence at known hotspots such as North State Street and Northside Drive on Sunday nights are among recommendations a neighborhood task force would like to see to reduce racing and speeding on residential streets.
In the last three years, residents in the Fondren neighborhood have experienced an increase in the noise and danger of racing and speeding on residential streets, according to a report produced by the Fondren Task Force on Safety.
Organized street racing by people intending to break the law, including ATVs, cars and motorcycles, is troubling and so are citizens who randomly break the law by speeding and running red lights, according to the report.
The Jackson city council took up the issue at its May 25 meeting and discussed increasing the penalties for street racing and towing cars.
A proposed ordinance, named in memory of Charles “Chuck” Griffin Jr., to the city’s ordinance on drag racing was placed in the Law Enforcement Ad Hoc Committee for further study. Griffin, a bystander, was killed in 2005 when a racer lost control of his car and hit him the day before his 19th birthday.
Ward 7 City Council member Virgi Lindsay said the proposed amendment includes the penalty of confiscating a drag racer’s vehicle for the first offense.
“If we can confiscate a few vehicles that would be a strong message,” she said.
She expects the proposed amendment will be placed on the agenda for the council’s next meeting, which is scheduled on June 8 at 10 a.m. at City Hall.
Rebecca Garrison, executive director of the Fondren Renaissance Foundation, said she is encouraged that the council is taking the issue of street racing seriously and proposing action.
“This is a safety issue and also a quality of life issue,” she said. “We will continue to monitor the council’s response to the problem and continue to weigh in if necessary.”
The Fondren task force recommends additional traffic stops, giving violators tickets and increased signage such as speed limit signs, stop signs, pedestrian crossings and driver feedback.
Also suggested are increased traffic lights on Northside Drive and traffic calming on residential cut-through streets, including speed bumps. Partnerships with county and state for increased law enforcement are recommended as well as making monthly traffic reports available to Fondren Renaissance Foundation and the public.
The task force asked JPD to enforce the laws when there is organized racing and investigate and make lawbreakers accountable. Also suggested were “better trained 911 emergency operators who are patient, understanding, responsive and helpful, instruction on what constitutes criminal activity and how to file a complaint as well as an easier way to have an affidavit notarized.”
Drag racers captured widespread media attention when they blocked a portion of I-55 near Woodrow Wilson Avenue on New Year’s night as drivers did donuts in the middle of the interstate.
The Legislature responded by passing a bill, written by Jackson’s Senate delegation, that authorizes the Mississippi Highway to use radar for speed enforcement on interstates inside cities with a population of 15,000 or more. The Highway Patrol had been prohibited from using radar for speed enforcement on interstates inside cities with a population of 15,000 or more.
The new law also requires cities to notify state troopers whenever a federal roadway is blocked.