Alerts sent by Aurora police about 600-800 cars shutting down a chunk of Interstate 225 on Sunday night for street racing were broadcast across social media, TV stations and news sites. It was an all-too familiar scene for Stephen Shepard, who said the commercial property owners he represents have paid tens of thousands of dollars in damages and security when their sites become impromptu speedways.
Aurora police reported on Twitter about 10 p.m. that hundreds of vehicles had deliberately blocked southbound I-225 from Colfax Avenue to Alameda Avenue. The racers cleared out about a half hour later and were likely headed to other areas, police said.
“What we are seeing is if you can get that many cars together, it’s a coordinated effort. They’re going out and scouting places,” said Shepard, executive vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association.
And those places are frequently properties owned and managed by his organization’s members, Shepard said. The sites are often in industrial areas.
Gatherings of street racers, which Shepard said have picked up during the past three months, have forced business owners to hire security guards and pay to repair asphalt, gates and other structures.
“One of my members has two properties, one in Denver and one in Aurora, close together. Between the two properties, they’ve spent over $40,000 in the last month and a half because of street racing,” Shepard said.
The costs include extra security, repairs to the asphalt and a new gate. “They put in a gate to try to keep them out and they blasted through that,” Shepard said.
A building owner in the Denver Tech Center faces a $300,000 bill after drivers doing donuts and skidding ripped up protective covering in an open-air parking garage. The covering is applied to protect the concrete from water, freezing and thawing.
Shepard said his members didn’t want to talk publicly about the racing out of fear of having their property targeted.
“I realize some of this is probably young people who are bored, getting frustrated” because of pandemic-related restrictions, Shepard said. “Look at Boulder.”
Shepard referred to a melee of about 800 people near the University of Colorado campus Saturday. The gathering grew violent, with people damaging cars and throwing things at police.
But Shepard said boredom isn’t an excuse for endangering people’s lives in danger or damaging their property.
“My members have been suffering through COVID. They’ve been working with their tenants, many of them having to do rent abatements and stuff like that so everybody can make it through this together,” Shepard said. “And then you have people who come and do damage and you have to spend money you shouldn’t have to spend. It’s just not right.”
A group of metro-area police departments and district attorneys is working to find solutions, Aurora police spokesman Matthew Longshore said an email. People can report street racing and submit pictures, license-plate numbers and other information to a website.
On weekends, officers have monitored and responded to rumored gatherings, Longshore said. Businesses have hired officers to keep street racers off their property.
Longshore said officers will issue summons, but typically don’t take people into custody because of the COVID-19 restrictions in effect in the jails.
Shepard said a ticket isn’t much a deterrent for a lot of people. “We’ve reached out to the city councils in Denver and Aurora, to let them know these things are happening.”
Longshore said police will continue to work with elected officials and communities on the problem. One possible avenue is to impound offenders’ vehicles.
“A new ordinance, and/or state law, is what would be needed for us to target vehicles after the fact,” Longshore said “Targeting the vehicles will allow us to remove these cars from the roadway for a certain amount of time and hope that it prevents these individuals from continuing their illegal activities.”
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