BATON ROUGE — Up until the Easter weekend drag racing instances across the city, many Baton Rouge leaders felt that the problem was under control.
East Baton Rouge metro councilman Rowdy Gaudet says data given to him by the Baton Rouge Police Department three weeks ago shows that the number of drag racing citations given out was down from the previous two years.
“I think what we saw over a holiday weekend was an organized effort over social media,” Gaudet said. “Folks were told where to go, where to gather and what was going to happen. So now, what we’re seeing play out is the police response to that.”
But for many residents and business leaders, the numbers don’t paint the entire picture. They’re frustrated with what they call weekly instances of drag racing in their neighborhoods. Cars not only racing in the streets, but stunt driving in intersections and parking lots.
Jim Urdiales, the owner of Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Cuisine, posted a nearly two minute profanity-laced tirade on Facebook early Sunday morning.
“I’m f-ing pissed,” Jim Urdiales, owner of Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Cusine, said. “I’ve experienced this too many freaking times in Baton Rouge where these people come out and put their freaking cars and destroy our city. I’m so f-ing mad.”
Urdiales isn’t alone. Several residents have spoken with Unfiltered with Kiran about their own concerns over drag racing.
Baton Rouge police have now arrested two individuals and charged them with felonies related to drag racing last weekend. There have been at least five tickets issued for drag racing and 15 tickets have been issued to spectators.
Using new powers given to them by Gaudet and his fellow council members last October, police are now able to impound cars participating in drag racing for 15 days. So far, UWK has learned that at least eight cars were towed and are currently being held.
“I know residents were initially frustrated when they heard only one person was arrested,” Gaudet said. “But you’re starting to see from an investigation some of those numbers increase. And that’s, frankly, how’s good policing will play out.”
Gaudet says that he believes “the tools are being utilized that were put into place.” Some of those tools not only include the ability to impound cars and fine spectators, but police now are able to fine drag and stunt racing participants up to $1,000.
“We ultimately increased the financial penalty associated with it, we maxed it out from what the local level can do to $1,000,” he said.
Gaudet says the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana State Police are also involved in the initiative to crack down on these instances across the city. He says that the city council is getting organized with law enforcement and the city attorney to see what more can be done to try and deter people from participating in stunt racing.
“(Are there) any additional steps we can take on a local level, or is the next conversation with our state legislators in hopes that we can look at other states and see what penalties they’re putting in place from a state legislative perspective, in addition to what we’ve done at a local level.”
But ultimately Gaudet believes there has to be a universal cultural change take place across Baton Rouge.
“The reality is that it has to be a change in behavior,” he said. “I mean, these are folks who want to and are willing to participate in this type of activity, knowing that there are penalties associated with it. So, ultimately, it comes down to us as a community. We’ve got to be vigilant enough to communicate that we don’t accept this type of behavior. We’re not tolerating it.”