Oakland mayor considering legal sideshows

October 22, 2009 6:37:01 PM PDT
The mayor of Oakland is talking about whether the city should legalize dangerous and illegal street races known as sideshows. The discussion comes after another deadly crash this weekend.

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"Is it possible to take side shows off the street, make them safe," Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums asked.

The illegal street races have become a weekly and increasingly deadly event in Oakland.

Now Dellums says he would consider legalizing sideshows if it means saving lives.

"If there's skills that are involved that are competitive, that are rewarding, OK, then do we need to continue to act that out in an illegal context and in a dangerous environment," he said.

The mayor does not have a specific plan, but possibilities include holding organized events in the parking lot of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum or at an empty lot on Hegenberger Road.

Sideshows have become such a serious problem for Oakland that at his swearing-in this week, the new police chief said cracking down will be a priority.

"The mayor and I talked about yesterday finding a different way to gather this individual energy and maybe take it off the streets and put it somewhere where it could be positive and not dysfunctional like it is," Chief Anthony Batts said.

Councilmember Desley Brooks first proposed the idea of setting up designated areas for sideshows back in 2003, but there was not any political support for the plan.

"The city has spent millions and millions to abate the sideshows and all we hear is that it's getting worse and so we need to look at different ways to find a solution," Brooks said.

This past weekend three young people were killed in East Oakland when their car flipped during a sideshow.

One victim's friend says she would like to see anything in place that makes the dangerous gatherings safer.

"I think sideshows cool; it is traditional, it's a town thing but I think everybody should be cautious; if you don't know how to do it, don't even try because if you can't get control of the wheel then don't even try it," the woman, named Heidi, said.

Police are planning another sideshow crackdown this weekend.

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