69 arrested, half of them juveniles, as Fla. police swarm illegal street takeover

Among those arrested was a couple who brought their children, ages 1 and 3, to watch the race, police said

By Mark Price
The Charlotte Observer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A crowd gathered for an illegal street race saw the event come to an abrupt halt when 50 patrol cars swarmed the not-so-secret location, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department.

It happened around 10:45 p.m. Saturday, April 22, and dozens were arrested and 23 vehicles impounded, Assistant Police Chief Antonio Gilliam said at a news conference.

Among those arrested was a couple who brought their children, ages 1 and 3, to watch the race, he said.

“The results of our operation on Saturday night are absolutely staggering,” Gilliam said. “Sixty-nine people were arrested. Many, if not most, were not even residents of Pinellas County. Those 69 arrests were comprised of 57 misdemeanor arrests and 12 felony arrests. There were 74 citations that were issued.”

Nearly half of those arrested were juveniles, police said.

As for the two adults who brought children, they were charged with felony child endangerment, Gilliam said. It is illegal to be a spectator at such events, police said.

“I’m not here to judge anyone’s parenting skills,” Gilliam said, “but ... why are you bringing a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old to an event like this? What good can come out of that?”

The news conference included a video clip that showed one person nearly run down by a vehicle doing doughnuts in the parking lot. Passengers of the vehicle were seen hanging out of the windows, Gilliam noted.

Street takeovers are defined as instances where crowds and vehicles are used to “form a circle” around intersections and parking lots, which allows vehicles to take center stage and perform stunts. This includes doing doughnuts, burning rubber and racing, officials say.

The arrests occurred at 11001 Roosevelt Boulevard North in St. Petersburg, where a parking lot was being used as a “warm up” site in advance of a major intersection takeover, police said. The same parking lot has been used for takeovers in the past, police said.

Investigators did not say how they learned of the race in advance.

Charges against the suspects included felony fleeing and eluding, street racing, driving with a suspended license, and obstruction, police said.

The crackdown comes three months after a 13-year-old boy was hit by a motorcycle during an illegal street race in St. Petersburg, Gilliam noted.

Investigators say the boy was attending the Jan. 29 race with his father and was struck while attempting to cross a street. His father was charged with felony child neglect, McClatchy News reported.

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