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Decatur cracks down on illegal street racing


Decatur cracks down on illegal street racing

Decatur City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

By Cathi Harris, contributor 

Decatur, GA — People who engage in illegal street racing in the city of Decatur, including drivers, organizers and passengers in the cars, can face fines up to $1,000, the impound of their cars, as well as six months in jail under a new ordinance passed last night by the Decatur City Commission.

Drag racing on public streets and parking lots has been a problem across the metro area since the pandemic began, Scott Richards, deputy chief of the Decatur Police Department, told commissioners. The races have led to several serious car accidents as well as disputes that have ended in violence.

Just this past weekend, authorities in Clayton County arrested 102 people gathered to drag race in the parking lot of a Sam’s Club on Jonesboro Road. 

The state legislature is expected to soon pass legislation increasing penalties for the activity, but those measures would likely not take effect until July 1, Richards added.

Since May, the Decatur Police Department has received reports of 41 incidents of illegal street racing centered mostly in its Oakhurst neighborhood. 

“Many jurisdictions that experienced this type of activity have had to deal with serious motor vehicle injury crashes, as well as shootings that have occurred because of these incidents,” Richards said. “We feel these activities pose an immediate threat to Public Safety and also a nuisance to the communities where this activity takes place.”

During discussion of the ordinance, Commissioner Kelly Walsh clarified that people involved in organizing an illegal street race could be charged even if they did not attend the race in person.

“So if a person is cited on social media as an organizer, even though they don’t attend in person, you could use that in your investigation?” she asked.

Many of the races are organized via social media and the police department would investigate those posting about it online, Richards confirmed. “If we could trace that person back to an event, this would apply.”

The commissioners voted unanimously, with one commissioner absent, to pass the new ordinance, which will take effect immediately.

In other business:

– The commission voted to extend its ordinance requiring face coverings in public for another month. Due to the continued high rate of virus transmission in DeKalb County, as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to not relax prevention measures, yet, city leaders believe the face-covering mandate is still necessary, said City Manager Andrea Arnold.

“Since we are still in the public health emergency due to COVID-19, we do recommend that the face-covering ordinance be extended to April 19, 2021,” she said. 

– Commissioners also extended the city’s temporary emergency pandemic leave policy for city employees until May 31, 2021. Although the federal requirement for cities to implement emergency sick leave and emergency family medical leave expired at the end of December 2020, city staff felt that it was important for Decatur to extend its leave policy to ensure the safety of its city employees and protect its essential workers, Assistant City Manager Teresa De Castro said.

– The commission authorized the city’s public works department to apply for Phase 2 of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority’s (GEFA) Solar Resiliency Program. In June 2020, the city was accepted into Phase 1 of the program which assessed the feasibility of placing solar arrays on the  Decatur Recreation Center and the main Public Works building to offset energy demands during an unexpected power outage. Participation in Phase 2 will involve placement of a 100-kilowatt solar array and 35-kilowatt lithium ion battery on top of the Public Works building. The array would be sufficient to sustain critical public works operations for a 36-hour power outage. If GEFA accepts the city into the second phase, the authority will cover $200,000 of the expected $500,000 purchase and installation cost.

“The public works building is kind of uniquely situated to support a large solar array,” David Nifong, the Lead for America fellow in the Department of Public Works, said. “And the department would provide critical support during a widespread power outage.”

– The commission approved an agreement with AECOM Technical Services in an amount not to exceed $12,000 for the development of Storm Water Green Infrastructure Guidelines for Single Family Dwellings. Creation of the guidelines was a requirement of the recently adopted Stormwater Master Plan, said David Junger, Decatur’s Assistant City Manager for Public Works.

Homeowners would be able to refer to the guidelines for ways to modify their property to mitigate stormwater runoff, such as construction of rain gardens and bioswales, replacement of impervious surfaces with pervious pavers, and constructed wetlands and rainwater collection.

– The commissioners approved a contract with HEH Paving in the amount of $38,290 for repair of the failed roadway at Winn Way and Pinehurst Street. A large construction project and heavy traffic has damaged the road there beyond the ability of the city public works department to adequately repair, Junger said.

– The commission approved a contract in the amount of $78,851 to Tower Interior Construction for renovations and repairs to the dining hall at Legacy Park. Planned repairs include removal and replacement of carpet, removal and replacement of wall coverings, wall paint, countertop replacement in the prep kitchen, and replacement of restroom fixtures.

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