San Jose considers cracking down on illegal sideshow promoters

The city of San Jose already cites spectators of illegal sideshows. Now, city leaders are going after sideshow promoters. They say people are traveling from as far as Los Angeles and it’s getting more dangerous.

There was a barrage of gunfire erupting at this illegal sideshow at Leigh and Hamilton in San Jose last month.

Residents are riled up over a problem they say is out of control.

"You could just hear the pop pop pop," said Abhijit Bhelande of San Jose. "I knew that was gunfire. I was thinking what the hell, why isn’t anyone complaining to the cops about this?" 

City councilmembers realized more needed to be done. After consulting with police, a new ordinance in San Jose could make it illegal to promote sideshows.

"We wanted to go after the promoters because that way fewer people will know about it," said San Jose City councilmember Dev Davis.

 San Jose City Councilmember Maya Esparza added that there were "a few hundred cars" at Hamilton and Leigh and police picked up more than 100 shell casings at a recent sideshow. 

Young people are using Tik Tok and Snapchat to alert others in advance. Two weeks ago, San Jose Police made several arrests for reckless driving and possessing guns including a ghost gun.

A handful of cars were impounded and 40 spectators cited. In 2019, city leaders made it illegal to watch shows, which helped but not for long.

"Unfortunately, over COVID, I think youth had less to do and the sideshows becoming more frequent and getting bigger again," said Davis.

Spectators are fined up to $1,000. Those behind this latest push want consequences to be tougher on promoters.

"A promoter they are the ones deciding these events should happen and where they should happen and to me, that’s a more serious issue," said Davis.

Other ideas include automated license plate readers but those are costly and bring up privacy concerns. Another idea is to create roundabouts at major hotspots, which is also costly.

Plans for a countywide task force are underway to help an outnumbered police force. It will potentially include CHP, Santa Clara County Sheriffs, Milpitas, and Santa Clara Police.

"My main concern is these people are armed and they are firing guns up in the air," said Bhelande. "It might be fun to them, but it’s not fun for everybody. That’s ridiculous to me."

On March 30, the council will vote on the new ordinance. Davis hopes the crackdown on promoters will go into effect before summer.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or