Boy racer crackdown: Car enthusiasts say heavy-handed response could isolate youth

Community leaders are welcoming a wave of police operations to curb illegal street racing, but car enthusiasts say a heavy-handed responses risks alienating young drivers and worsening the problem.

Police issued hundreds of infringement notices and multiple vehicles were impounded or ordered off the road in a weekend of simultaneous operations across the country.

In the Manawatū and Wellington regions, police enlisted the support of the Eagle helicopter to help them issue more than 250 infringement notices during the holiday weekend.

About 40 vehicles were impounded or issued green or pink stickers for unsafe modifications, while hundreds of drivers were breathalysed.

Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith said his city had a proud history of motorsport, but there was a growing antisocial element turning up to social media-driven gatherings.

“This is more than just car enthusiasts. There’s antisocial behaviour – we’ve had knives pulled – we’ve had low level gang activity attached to it. So it’s gone to a different level now and you’ve seen [that in] the amount of seizures, arrests and unlawful activity connected to it.”

Smith said his city had invested up to $1 million implementing a bylaw to deter illegal racing in public and installing traffic calming measures.

“That’s speed humps, traffic islands, narrowing of roads just to stop the speed activity. It was something that we just had to do really to protect our residents and for safety reasons,” he said.

Lower Hutt mayor Campbell Barry said he was pleased the police were being resourced to act against antisocial gatherings and to make an impact on the behaviour.

“This does send a really strong message to those who engage in antisocial behaviour and cause quite significant disruption for local communities and for people being able to try and get sleep and trying to navigate the roads at night-time,” Barry said.

In Canterbury, 171 notices were issued and 33 vehicles were pink- or green- stickered on Saturday night.

But Easton Wesley said the police response to a gathering of just over 15 cars in a Christchurch carpark this weekend was over the top and threatening.

He said up to 20 police cars and multiple police vans descended on the carpark where he was hanging out with friends, resulting in just a couple of tickets for expired warrants of fitness and registrations.

“We do expect them to come but it’s just the way they come about it. Full body armour, full protective pads, all getting out of the paddy wagon flinging their batons around at us and we’re just standing there,” Wesley said.

Jason Gutteridge of online motor sport coverage company The Pits Media said there were legitimate events allowing burnouts and drifting – in a controlled environment – but organisers faced numerous obstacles and costs.

“You’ve got to first approach the venue that you want to do it at and then – if you are going to involve any sorts of mass people – you need to approach the council to get the council on board.

“You’ve really got to notify the police and you’ve probably got to notify WorkSafe or, if anything happens, you’ve got to have insurances [sic] and that sort of stuff. It’s just made it too difficult for them.”

He said a heavy handed-approach from police could isolate large groups of young people with dangerous consequences.

“If you tell a youngster not to do something they will do the complete opposite and they’ll probably try and rake some others in to do it as well. So what we’re doing – by cracking down and making it harder for them – we’re just going to encourage more people. I think it’s like the thrill of it.”

Gutteridge said local councils, police and car groups needed to work together to make it easier for youth to find an outlet.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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