Amid ongoing I-TEAM investigation, sheriff’s office addresses auto club rallies in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Amid an ongoing News4JAX I-TEAM investigation into groups of cars taking over large parking lots, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is speaking out.

The sheriff’s office released a statement Thursday regarding car and motorcycle clubs:

“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is aware of the recent increase in the number of groups of cars and motorcycles congregating in local business parking lots and on our roads. It was also recognized that some of the participants create dangerous situations not only for themselves but also for the citizens around them.

“Due to the potential dangers caused by some of these individuals, JSO takes these events very seriously and will not tolerate this type of behavior in our city. We are working with other state and local partners and have implemented a proactive solution that incorporates both education and enforcement strategies to address these issues.

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“As always, we ask citizens to contact us at 904-630-0500, or 911, if they observe these types of large gatherings or other unsafe driving habits. If you have video of incidents depicting potentially dangerous or criminal driving, it can be submitted to the Sheriff’s Office via email at [email protected].”

Recently, we spoke with James Brown, a former JSO detective, who says police need to be careful in these situations.

“There’s always liability because if that person tries to run away, you have to weigh the act of arrest against the amount of damage that could be done,” he said.

For months, the I-TEAM has reported on auto encounters that dotted the city, as well as street races that in some cases resulted in crashes. In an incident last month, police say, two motorcyclists were killed while doing stunts together on the Northside.

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Several of the complaints raised at car meets in Jacksonville involved large groups of drivers meeting in private parking lots and doing things like “doughnuts,” which damage the grounds. In one case, a property manager told I-TEAM it would cost between $60,000 and $70,000 to repair the damage to his land. With street racing, concerns about safety and noise have been raised.

Earlier this week, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also addressed auto club rallies.

“No, we don’t agree to live with it. What we need people to do is we need people to report it so we can get the police there and prevent it from happening,” Curry said.

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Auto clubs have spoken out in the wake of the I-TEAM reports, with many saying the videos of the dangerous frolics are giving Jacksonville’s auto community a bad name.

Meanwhile, Florida lawmakers have moved to make certain types of auto dating and street racing illegal. The state legislature passed Bill 399 to crack down on anyone involved in so-called parking lot takeovers or street races and crack down on people who come out to watch. It hasn’t yet been signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but if it is, it would go into effect in October and allow law enforcement to cite anyone who does stunts or street racing from a way that is not currently listed as illegal.

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The legislation would also prohibit filming this type of conduct and promoting it on social media. The passengers of these vehicles could also be cited. The legislation includes a scale citation that gets worse each time someone is cited.

The first offense could result in a fine of $500 to $1,000 and a one-year suspension of your driver’s license. Fines and suspensions would increase for each subsequent violation.

I-TEAM REPORTS: Donuts and street racing: Reckless late-night drivers a nuisance for downtown residents | Manager says street racers caused $60,000 in damage doing donuts in mall parking lot | Complaints continue about groups of cars driving erratically in vacant parking lots | Local motoring group speaks out over street takeover complaints | Councilor’s message to car clubs: Get out of public ownership or buy your own spot | Video appears to show a police cruiser breaking away in the Jacksonville parking lot | Witness says police cruiser seen in video trying to disperse crowd gathered for meeting with motoring club | Residents say drivers are turning this area of ​​Jacksonville into a weekend racetrack | Street racing concerns the surface in another Jacksonville neighborhood | 2 street racing crashes in 2 weeks spark more safety concerns | Instagram video shows ambulance making donuts in parking lot | Automobile clubs denounce others who perform dangerous stunts, causing property damage | Florida lawmakers crack down on parking lot takeovers and street racing | Video shows meeting with car club in same area where 17-year-old was shot dead | Jacksonville Mayor Curry addresses auto club rallies in the city | New video shows cars invading Southside parking lot

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Sara H. Byrd