Screenshot of Antioch City Council meeting showing the members with onscreen text that reads "city ordinance prohibiting reckless driving exhibitions ('sideshows') and street racing"

To Deter Sideshows, Antioch Sets Its Sights on Spectators

Screenshot of Antioch City Council meeting showing the members with onscreen text that reads "city ordinance prohibiting reckless driving exhibitions ('sideshows') and street racing"

By Samantha Kennedy

Antioch will vote on an ordinance that will target spectators at sideshows in the city.

The Antioch City Council on Tuesday asked to have city staff prepare an ordinance that it hopes will reduce crowds at sideshows and expenses.

Council members said they knew of several instances in which crowds gathered to watch a sideshow at intersections that have previously been identified as hotspots for these events. But with low police staffing and traffic-calming measures that don’t always work, the council says an ordinance might help.

“There’s too many people that are upset over these incidents,” council member Lori Ogorchock said. Ogorchock said some residents who have encountered these events and get stuck are worried about their safety.

Residents in Antioch have already complained about the safety of streets due to speeding drivers, high speed limits and the lack of speed deterrents. Many of these streets are also the sites of recurring sideshows.

Council member Michael Barbanica said some business owners have even offered a space for sideshows to take place and still had problems. In one instance, according to Barbanica, a business owner did just that and the event turned into multiple sideshows and a shooting.

In recent years, Antioch has tried to put an end to sideshows but has only somewhat worked. Mayor Lamar Thorpe announced in 2021 that raised pavement meters would be installed at some of the most popular intersections for sideshows to deter the events. Still, several injuries related to sideshows have happened since then.

>>>Read: Richmond Explores Ways To Hinder Auto Sideshows

But not all council members are convinced that an ordinance targeting bystanders would work to reduce sideshows. Criminalizing bystanders could hurt innocent individuals should they get stuck nearby because of the event.

Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker and council members Monica Wilson and Ogorchock wanted to have “spectator” defined clearly in the ordinance because it was unclear.

Torres-Walker specifically criticized criminalizing spectators when law enforcement would have the discretion to consider someone a spectator or not.

“We can’t even trust them, not all but some, to do their current job without bias,” she said. “I just don’t know if this is the particular right direction to go in.”

And even if the ordinance were to go into effect, staffing shortages in the police department due to the racist text scandal would impact just how much the ordinance is enforced. Acting Police Chief Joe Vigil told the council at the Sept. 26 City Council meeting that sometimes only four officers were patrolling the entire city.

“There are already traffic laws that need to be enforced in this city that are currently not being enforced,” Torres-Walker said.

Torres-Walker said other traffic incidents, like spinouts, are something residents deal with daily but are not dealt with. Though these incidents attract less attention and don’t have hundreds of people spectating, Torres-Walker said, they pose a frequent threat to a majority of residents and asked what the city was going to do to address that.

Thorpe said he would bring something addressing spinouts, burnouts and donuts at a future meeting.

The next Antioch City Council meeting is Nov. 14.

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