Robust Law Enforcement Operation Curbs Street Racing in Charlotte
Britt Clampitt
Curbing Street Racing

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police See Success by Taking Vehicles Off the Road

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is seeing early signs of success in its work to remove reckless drivers and street-racing vehicles from Charlotte-area roads — and keep them off.

In a major blow to organized, illegal racing in Charlotte, CMPD and police forces in neighboring counties on May 6 arrested more than 50 people with grand jury indictments for street racing and reckless driving. Over the following days, officers were also able to seize 65 of the 85 vehicles for which they had seizure orders.

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings and Captain Dave Harris, who leads the department's transportation division, on Monday provided the Charlotte City Council's Safe Communities Committee with an update on the operation.

Harris told committee members how officers knocked on doors and, without incident, arrested those individuals for whom they had warrants for reckless or aggressive driving, or unlawful racing. According to Harris, most suspects were so concerned about their cars they simply handed over the keys; others avoided engaging with officers as officers towed away the vehicle.

About 12 individuals are still wanted by law enforcement and about 20 vehicles are still missing. CMPD officers know a few vehicles have been wrecked or totaled, sold or repossessed, and may never turn up — but that also means they are not being raced and streets are safer. CMPD's campaign is focused on saving lives.

"I think the message is out there that if you're going to do this in Charlotte, you take a very high risk of losing your vehicle," said CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings during the committee meeting.

A Complex and Highly Effective Operation

In October 2020, CMPD received complaints from residents about an increase in street racing and reckless driving in Charlotte. Reports came in from across the Charlotte area, and police quickly realized the problem wouldn't be solved by ticketing traffic violations here-and-there, division-by-division. They needed a comprehensive strategy that put a long-term stop to the system of street racing across the Charlotte region and brought lasting consequences for participants.

CMPD began its operation in the area near Interstate 485 and Prosperity Church Road, then moved to other areas of Charlotte with significant activity. For many months, officers of various CMPD units and divisions tracked racing meetups on social media, conducted undercover investigations and identified people who participated or watched the races.

Officers even witnessed events first-hand. These were large gatherings, often involving hundreds of vehicles, with dangerous and highly organized street races across Charlotte.

"It was literally like a scene from 'The Fast and the Furious' — people just lining the streets, DJs playing music, just all kinds of craziness, which in and of itself seemed okay until you throw in the dangerous driving," Harris said of one event he witnessed.

Over the course of the operation, officers made more than 2,500 traffic stops for 3,500 violations, including:

  • 2,100 speeding violations.

  • 400 reckless driving violations.

  • 32 DWI violations.

  • 10 spontaneous racing violations.

Partnering with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office, CMPD received 55 grand jury indictments for prearranged street racing, and the authorization to seize 85 cars (30 more individuals were charged with a warrant or citations) — all leading to the May 6 arrests across the Charlotte region.

Additionally, CMPD sent warning letters to 300 people whose vehicles were known to be present for street racing and/or aggressive driving, informing them they may be investigated if they continued with illegal activity, and outlining potential charges.

What's Next and How Residents Can Help

Harris also told the committee all cases are currently pending prosecution and holding individuals accountable in court is key to keeping illegal racing off Charlotte streets.

"Keeping these cars, that's going to hit them where it counts and stop the activity," he said.

Harris also said that, in the meantime, CMPD's transportation division will continue to monitor for any flare ups in racing, but most activity seems to be curbed.

"I think the message was received."

Residents are encouraged to stay vigilant and to reach out to CMPD with any information about reckless driving activity and organized street races. Anyone with information about these events can call 911 or leave information anonymously by contacting Crime Stoppers at 704.334.1600.