Vallejo police chief calls sideshows 'street terrorism;' spectators and promoters to be cited

Vallejo is going to start citing spectators at sideshows, as well as people who promote or encourage the illegal stunts.

Voting unanimously 7-0 Tuesday evening, the City Council agreed with Police Chief Shawny Williams, who called the activity "street terrorism."

Sideshows crop up in intersections and parking lots, often attracting hundreds of people to watch cars spin and skid in a dangerous display.

"They are spinning donuts, disrupting our citizens, throwing fireworks at our officers, throwing bottles, it's been a problem," said  Vallejo Police Captain Jason Potts, who spoke to council members alongside Chief Williams.

"This truly is about saving lives and improving the quality of life for people in Vallejo."

Starting immediately, spectators are prohibited at what the city defines as exhibitions of reckless driving or excessive speed.

MORE: Hundreds of cars participated in weekend Oakland sideshow

Individuals can be issued citations and slapped with fines up to $1,0000,

Vallejo modeled its crackdown after ordinances in San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, which have seen a reduction in crowd size.

"If you re there and you're encouraging folks and blocking the roadway and preventing our officers from taking action, then we're going to take action against you as a spectator," explained Potts.

Sideshows are a stubborn and growing problem for law enforcement across the Bay Area.

They have been the scene of shootings and assaults, and serious injury when people are hit by out-of-control vehicles.

"Take it to your own neighborhood, why do you want to do it around here?," complained Michael Wright of Vallejo, who lives at an intersection popular for sideshows.

Besides the noise and being overrun by crowds, Wright worries about a car careening through the front of his house, putting his family at risk.

"What is the excitement of it, tearing up your car and engine, maybe damaging someone else's car, maybe killing yourself, so what is the thrill of this?," he said in frustration.

MORE: Oakland leaders grapple with how to crack down on illegal sideshows, where 2 were shot

Some of the thrill is the outlaw nature of sideshows, defying police and eluding them.

The crowds are often too big to break-up safely, but using drones and license plate readers, authorities are able to serve warrants and impound cars after the fact.

Antioch, after passing a similar spectator-ban ordinance, recently seized 20 cars and cited 20 people at a large sideshow.

But some defenders argue it's a social outlet young people need.

"Would you rather see kids be violent with guns or kids shred their tires having fun, doing stuff like that?," posed Jose Baca, who works in a Vallejo market that must lock its doors when sideshow activity blocks the street outside.  "We get it, these kids see this as a focus, but there's other things they could be doing," noted Potts, who doubts a safe and sanctioned sideshow would win many fans, if offered.

Baca added: "Part of the sideshow culture is that they enjoy the resistance, they enjoy the chase so I think if we tried to organize a substitute, they would just go to another  intersection unfortunately."

Many residents doubt the threat of citation will keep people away, but appreciate the attempt at stronger enforcement.   

"By all means, take their cars, fine them, all of that, " said Wright. "They don't care about anybody's safety, they don't care about property, it's just stupid."