Brakes on illegal drag racing
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DURBAN - Metro police are looking into allegations that officers are providing tip-offs about roadblocks and patrols to illegal drag racers as the street sport resumed under level 3 of the lockdown.
Once the 8pm curfew was lifted on June 1, illegal drag racing enthusiasts again made various stretches of road in Durban their playgrounds.
Metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said: “We are working on an undercover sting operation to determine who is behind organising these races. We are aware that some police were providing the drag racers with tip-offs about roadblocks and patrols. We will find out who the snitches are and they will also face the wrath of the law.”
Sewpersad said those caught illegally racing would face prosecution.
“A curfew was imposed during level 4 of the lockdown, which restricted people to their homes between 8pm and 5am. During this time we had no complaints about illegal racing. But as soon as the curfew was lifted and we moved to level 3, we began receiving numerous complaints from residents about illegal drag racing returning,” he said.
Sewpersad said the police were aware of more than 15 hot spots that attracted drag racing.
“The drivers are mainly between the ages of 18 and 35. They are driving high-powered and modified vehicles. The races occur from Thursday to Sunday from 9pm until the morning.”
He said the culprits would be arrested.
“There is no longer an admission-of-guilt fine. Those arrested will have to appear in court. We have the full support of the National Prosecuting Authority.”
Sewpersad said police were deployed to the hot spots to conduct disruptive operations such as roadblocks. He urged residents to register complaints with the police.
Pete Graham, a ward 110 councillor in areas including Glen Anil, Avoca Hills and a part of Redhill, said he sent a letter to eThekwini metro police head Steve Middleton on Monday.
This was after he received complaints from residents about illegal drag racing at the weekend around Chris Hani (North Coast) Road and the M25.
“The illegal drag racing has been going on for years but during level 4 of the lockdown, there was no racing activity. I believe this was due to the 8pm curfew.”
He said the weekend’s races started at about 7pm and continued throughout the night.
Graham said the primary complaints were the noise, having illegal racing activity going unpunished, and accidents.
“The protection of life is our number one priority, after that is property. These illegal actions are risking our key objectives to make Durban a safe place.”
Graham, a member of the city’s security and emergency services sub-committee, said he was awaiting a response from the metro police.
“We need intelligence-driven police initiatives to stop the illegal drag racing.”
Bobby Maharajh, the ward councillor for the Kenville/Sea Cow Lake areas, said he could hear the racing on Chris Hani Road from his home.
“I live above the old North Coast Road. They race along this stretch and Rinaldo Road and fly down toward the freeway. Over the past week, the racing started up again.”
He said the spectators normally gathered at nearby service stations to watch the races. Maharajh suggested the races be held in a controlled setting instead.
Nicole Bollman, ward 35 councillor in areas including Virginia, Glen Ashley, La Lucia and uMhlanga Ridge, said she received complaints from residents about racing on the stretch on the M4 Ruth First Highway at the weekend.
“Since the curfew was lifted and the portion of the highway between uMhlanga Ridge and Sibaya opened last week, racing has restarted. Residents are fed-up.”
Ish Prahladh, a community activist in Reservoir Hills, said he could hear the revving of engines and screeching tyres on the M19 highway at the weekend.
“These races have come back to haunt us,” said Prahladh. “My house is situated close to the M19, so I can see and hear everything from my veranda. They raced from 10pm to 3am.”
He said the races usually took place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
“I phone the metro police every time I hear them, but it’s hard to chase after 200 cars.”
Prahladh said apart from the danger of speeding, those who raced illegally and attended the gatherings were doing so when the rate of Covid-19 infections was rising.
Umesh Singh, chairperson of the Phoenix Community Police Forum, said they had also received complaints from residents about racing on Northern Drive and the R102.
“The racing occurs on a Friday and Saturday, either late at night or during the early hours of the morning.”
Singh said the sale of alcohol coupled with the curfew being lifted would lead to increased accidents.
“We need the community to report the racing so we can pinpoint the hot spots and formulate a plan of action to catch the culprits.”
A resident, who declined to named, said she reported the racing to metro police.
“I live near Northern Drive. Soon after we moved to level 3, I was awoken by the sound of them racing.”
The 35-year-old said they raced up the road, turned and raced back down the road.
“I called metro police but before they could arrive, the cars dispersed. This has been an ongoing issue.”
Kas Moodley, the chairperson of KwaZulu-Natal Motor Racing, said lockdown or not it was important for the city to provide a venue for street racers to explore the sport.
“It is fine for metro to take strict measures against racing. It is dangerous but, in saying that, racers need to be given an alternate. We have been singing this song for years.”
To report illegal drag racing, call 031 361 0000.