Seattle City Council proposes stiffer fines for street racing

City leaders in Seattle are pushing for stronger measures to combat the ongoing issue of illegal street racing.

Council member Rob Saka introduced two proposals to toughen penalties for both participants and spectators of these dangerous events.

Amendment One: Heftier fines, especially for repeat offenders

The ordinance first introduced weeks ago, backed by City Attorney Ann Davison, would allow for video, including social media posts, to be admissible as evidence. Another key provision of the original ordinance is a $500 fine for perpetrators. However, some locals complain it doesn't go far enough. One concerned resident from Queen Anne called on the council to increase the penalty.

"I think that’s too low. It should be raised up higher, because that gets into people’s wallets," they argued.

According to council member Bob Kettle, this is not the first time he's heard this. In response, he's backing Saka's proposal to escalate the $500 after the first infraction. Charging $800 for the second and $1,500 for the third.

All five members of the public safety committee voted yes to this.

Amendment Two: Cracking down on spectators

Saka’s second proposal, which has sparked more debate, aims to impose fines on spectators, as well.

"I strongly support this as a deterrent of attendees, which at times can number in the hundreds," Saka stated. "These events can devolve into large, out-of-control gatherings with massive repercussions, including possible injuries or worse, death. We’ve seen it."

The proposal draws inspiration from a similar crackdown in Kent, where Mayor Dana Ralph criminalized spectator behavior. Saka's version, however, is less severe, proposing a $100 civil infraction for anyone found spectating.

Councilmember Bob Kettle expressed concern over the encouragement and support that spectators provide to street racers.

"This goes to the underlying problem that plagues our city," said Kettle.

Despite reassurances that the new rules would not target individuals simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, but rather those actively cheering on illegal activities and refusing police orders to disperse, there was some hesitation among council members. Council member Moore and Council President Nelson abstained from voting on the spectator fines proposal, while the other three members of the Public Safety Committee voted in favor.

The final version of the ordinance will be put to a vote by the full council next week.


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