The Vancouver Police Department says its officers are targeting speeders and street racers in the downtown area as some of that illegal activity has spilled over from Portland.
Police believe that some of the street racing activities have come north across the Columbia River into Vancouver and Clark County, said Lt. Kathy McNicholas.
Some of the county’s residents are likely involved, McNicholas said, because officers have noticed a portion of the souped-up cars have Washington license plates. Additionally, racers fleeing law enforcement in Portland have come north across the Interstate 5 and 205 bridges, she said.
Cmdr. Michael McCabe said Clark County sheriff’s deputies have not reported direct encounters with organized, intentional street racers like has been seen recently in Portland. He said they have reported that general vehicle speeds on county roadways has increased, sometimes as much as 20 mph over the posted speed limits, since the stay-at-home order started.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that at least two Clark County residents have been accused of street racing in Portland.
Portland Police Bureau officers started their most recent crackdown on the racers on April 12, when a large group of cars blocked southbound Interstate 405 on the upper deck of the Fremont Bridge. The drivers blocking the freeway fled before officers showed up, but police received numerous reports of racing in North and Northeast Portland over the next couple of hours.
No arrests were made, but police said they’d be investigating the incident and targeting the culprits of the “irresponsible driving activities.” Since then, the police bureau has reported on multiple occasions about arrests related to those efforts.
On April 19, Mystar Russell, a 19-year-old from Ridgefield, was one of four people arrested during a crackdown in North Portland. Police said he faces charges of reckless driving and reckless endangering. Russell was released because prosecutors needed more time to review the case, said Brent Weisberg, communications director for the district attorney’s office. There is now a warrant for Russell’s arrest, Weisberg said.
On May 3, 18-year-old Jorge Angulo-Hernandez was arrested when Portland police put extra resources toward catching street racers in the northern part of the city. The officers made 17 traffic stops, issued 7 traffic citations, towed six vehicles and made five arrests that night.
Angulo-Hernandez, a Vancouver resident, faces a single count of reckless driving.
Increase in speeding
The Vancouver Police Department said in a May 13 post on Facebook that there had been an increase in speeding and street racing over the past several weeks. Officers conducted a patrol emphasis that previous weekend and officers contacted more than 300 drivers, issued citations and made several arrests.
That heightened enforcement will continue in the downtown and The Waterfront Vancouver areas for the next couple of weekends, said McNicholas.
Those areas of Vancouver need the most attention, she said. When there was an impromptu convergence of cars and crowds along Vancouver’s Main Street on May 15, some of those racers drifted down toward Columbia Way, McNicholas said. About a dozen motorists were given tickets for things like equipment violations, speeding and negligent driving, she said.
Jeanne Bennett, a waterfront resident, said she hasn’t seen people racing in the area; the largest issue has been noise.
“There are a number of cars that seem to get a big kick out of revving their engines,” Bennett said.
Some of those drivers speed down the road but not a lot, and motorcyclists pop wheelies, she said. Bennett said she realizes that the auto lovers may not be doing anything illegal, and the public space is just as much theirs as other residents, but the activity is disruptive and dangerous to families who visit the waterfront for relaxation.
The gatherings have been happening for about four to five weeks, Bennett said. Things ramped up when COVID-19 stopped most people from visiting the waterfront, she said.
Downtown residents have reported late-night racers speeding down Main Street, ignoring traffic laws, said Michael Walker, director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association.
Walker said he’s heard a mixture of complaints from people in the area, but mainly, the vehicles are loud and creating noise pollution, which is impacting quality of life.
“It’s also impacting the safety of cyclists, people on scooters, as well as other drivers,” Walker said.
The neighborhood police officer for downtown is aware of the problem and has told Walker that it’s being addressed. Walker said some of the activity has settled down more recently.