Return of San Jose sideshows lead to questions over city policy effectiveness

Sideshows have become a common sight and sound around the Bay Area. This weekend, they dominated several intersections in San Jose.

At Meridian and Hamilton avenues, fresh tire marks were still visible on the pavement in the Willow Glen section of the city.

"I think they’re dangerous. Extremely dangerous," said Yvonne Kantor, a manager at a Shell gas station at that intersection.

She said her nightshift attendant watched the chaos unfold.

"He said it happened so fast, it was so quick. I said, ‘well why didn’t you just call the police?’ And he said by the time I realized what was happening, and I heard the noise, they were all pulling into the station for gas," Kantor said.

San Jose police said there were reports of multiple sideshows around the city late Saturday and early Sunday morning. Officers pursued participants and spectators that created large crowds until 4a.m.

Investigators issued nine spectator citations; one person was cited for causing a hit & run; Three vehicles were impounded; two people were arrested for firearms possession.

"I’m definitely frustrated with sideshows, which is why we’ve been so serious about cracking down on them," said Mayor Matt Mahan.

In late August, he and the San Jose police chief, announced a new initiative to curb sideshows that involve asking social media companies to remove such videos, or limit their sharing.

The city has already outlawed participation, promotion, and being a spectator at sideshows. But many people who’ve grown disgruntled with efforts to end this type of crime are asking, is any of this working? The mayor says the needle is trending in the right direction.

"We’ve seen the numbers come down year-over-year. That doesn’t mean we’re gonna be able to prevent sideshows from every happening. But our commitment to the community is we’re going to respond quickly and forcefully, and hold people accountable," said Mahan.

Councilwoman Dev Davis said creating a legal outlet for sideshows could be the best way to handle this social, and social media, dilemma.

"San Jose hasn’t had a speedway for probably way too long. But somewhere in the South Bay where these events could take place would go a long way I think, to stopping the illegal sideshows from happening in intersections," said Davis.

While she investigated creation of a legal place to hold sideshows, the police department asked for help identifying everyone at the multiple sideshows during the past weekend.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.