Portland receives state grant to crack down on street racing
The $100,000 grant is expected to allow Portland police to more than double the number of enforcement missions they undertake
By Shane Dixon Kavanaugh
PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland police and prosecutors plan to more frequently and aggressively crack down on street racing across the city after securing a six-figure state grant to beef up enforcement.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission approved the $100,000 award Monday, following a direct pitch for financial assistance by Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Portland Police Chief Bob Day.
The money could allow Portland police to more than double the number of enforcement missions they undertake this year as compared to last year.
“At these events we see people get injured. My office has had to respond to homicides that are the result of these events,” Schmidt told members of the commission. “We see a lot of guns accompanying these events. Sometimes we’ve seen looting of local businesses.”
Day said Portland police conducted four street racing enforcement missions last year, arresting dozens of people, seizing guns and impounding cars. Each enforcement operation cost the bureau about $10,000, he said.
“The word is already starting to get out” about city efforts to crack down on these dangerous, disruptive events, Day said.
Both law enforcement leaders, however, said they hoped to do more.
In recent years, street racing enthusiasts — many of them living out of state — have routinely flocked to Portland in droves and shut down major roadways, intersections and sometimes bridges.
The events, which can last for hours, often involve drivers spinning their cars wildly in circles and racing each other, with large crowds cheering them on. Residents who live nearby have said they’ve been threatened by participants.
The Portland City Council issued an ordinance in 2021 to increase street-racing penalties, including towing cars. Gov. Tina Kotek signed a bill into law last June that increased punishments for people caught street racing in Oregon.
Schmidt, who faces a tough reelection this year, said the idea to seek state funding to combat Portland’s street racing scourge came after he watched several of them get broken up during a police ride-along on New Year’s Eve.
That night, Schmidt said, he also heard directly from the city’s North Precinct commander about the five-figure price tag of conducting a single mission, which can require dozens of officers, many of them working overtime.
“It really takes a large amount of force,” he said.
Schmidt served as the state’s criminal justice commission director prior to entering elected office in 2020. Last summer, he lobbied and secured $400,000 from the commission to help fund the launch of a new hotel security district in downtown Portland.