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Tired of having a racetrack in their neighborhood, northwest Fresno residents banded together to lodge enough complaints about speeding violations on Herndon Avenue that the city is now taking action.

“The reckless driving on Herndon has been happening for some time now without any police enforcement,” resident Matthew Campanile told GV Wire℠. “I live at the Fruit and Herndon corridor about a block south and can hear the vehicles in the evening into the early mornings.”

The area’s councilmember, Mike Karbassi, said he’s been paying attention. “We have to have enforcement and it’s time to use the stick,” says Karbassi.

Photo of Mike Karbassi

“We have to have enforcement and it’s time to use the stick.”District 2 City Council Member Mike Karbassi

A team of Fresno police officers were assigned to specifically patrol Herndon last weekend, Deputy Chief Mike Reid said. Although they didn’t spot any street racing, they did make some traffic stops and wrote several speeding tickets. They were temporarily pulled off an ongoing gang operation.

Reid said the effort was just the beginning.

String of Neighbor Complaints

GV Wire℠ spoke with several neighbors who had complained on Nextdoor, an app for sharing neighborhood information. For a number of weeks, area residents have been posting comments about the noise from revving engines and squealing tires and the racing they’ve witnessed themselves.

“We have a serious problem here in northwest Fresno with these fools who engage in car races on Herndon almost every single night,” said Barbara Rizzo. “The time for talking is over. We need action.”

“This reckless driving is jeopardizing innocent life and property and traffic officers are desperately needed,” said Campanile.

Another neighbor who asked to not be identified said he lives between almost a half-mile from Herndon Ave. but can still hear the noise from speeding cars.

One neighbor sent Karbassi a video of a truck doing donuts at the intersection of Herndon and Milburn during Thanksgiving week.

The video is startling, Karbassi said. “If you’re doing donuts at an intersection on Herndon, you are a clear threat because some innocent unsuspecting person is driving by. And if they (suspect car) hits you and their life is taken away, you’re responsible for that.”

A truck does donuts at the intersection of Herndon and Milburn in northwest Fresno. (Video provided by NW Fresno resident) 

Balancing Speeding Complaints Against Gang Operation

Reid said he has to balance the differing public safety needs of the community with available resources.

“The neighborhood traffic unit has been tasked with MAGEC and street violence on this (ongoing) gang operation that’s really been pretty successful,” he said. “What we were seeing in that gang operation were a lot of drive-by shootings, which means people in vehicles and that’s where our neighborhood traffic team has really had an impact.”

Reid says the effort has prevented more shootings from occurring and is expected to continue through the end of the year.

He says it’s a matter of balancing needs. So, he developed a targeted strategy for addressing the street racing concerns.

This week, Reid assigned one of his traffic sergeants to follow up with every racing complaint coming into the Police Department and Karbassi’s office. “(We) got a little bit better information about times of occurrences, what they’re hearing, what they’re seeing,” Reid said. His office is also reviewing the Herndon and Milburn video.

GV Wire℠ asked Reid if video evidence was enough for his office to issue a citation if the vehicle involved can be identified. “Well, it’s a misdemeanor being committed, so it’s got to be committed in the presence of the officers, in California, the way the law works,” he said.

But Reid said videos can be a helpful deterrent. Sometimes police are able to read a license plate and follow up with the registered owner vehicle.

We’ll go talk to the parents and say, this is a video we got,” says Reid. “Are you aware that your child is driving, or some significant person in your house is driving, in this behavior?” He says that’s often enough to stop the activity before it becomes a legal matter.

Excessive Speed = Excessive Financial Pain

“The impact of it on your driving points and your insurance costs really goes skyrocketing.”Fresno Police Deputy Chief Michael Reid

If someone is caught speeding excessively or driving recklessly, a vehicle can be impounded and the costs mount from day one, Reid says.

Usually what we do is we will take the car for a 30 day hold,” he said. In that scenario, the owner not only loses the use of the car, but they will be charged a daily storage fee by the towing company. “There’s the tow charge and then there’s the administrative fee to get it out,” Reid said.

He said the expense doesn’t stop there. “The impact of it on your driving points and your insurance costs really goes skyrocketing.”

Reid says while there’s no fixed amount for every case, it’s at least thousands of dollars.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, police impounded nine cars for street racing along Blackstone near Nees. For the month of November, 50 were towed in all, Reid said, bringing the total number of vehicles impounded so far this year to 298.

While he says the overall numbers are actually a bit down this year from last, he’s seeing more activity toward the later part of this year. He says it’s possible that some of the COVID-19 pandemic precautions have kept some of the street racers away that would normally come in from the South Valley, Merced, and Modesto.

He says it’s also likely the better weather is a contributing factor.

Virtual Meeting for Residents

Karbassi says he’s planning to hold a virtual meeting in the near future with residents in the area to discuss their concerns. The date and time will be announced through social media, he said.

But actions to bring the problem under control will continue, he said.

“With some enforcement, you’re going to see a real change.”

5 Responses

  1. Tanya S.

    I live near Alluvial and First St and the racing starts about 9pm and goes until about 2am EVERY NIGHT!! Their cars are loud and backfires. It sounds like a semi-automatic gun shots! It’s terrifying and a nuisance to our peace and our sleep. My dogs start barking and don’t stop. How is someone supposed to sleep to that? If I played music loud at my house after 10pm, I would have the police knocking on my door. How are these people allowed to disrupt so many and get away with it? The Nextdoor App has complaints daily! What’s it going to take? A death or a couple for Fresno PD to do something? I realize gang activity and enforcement is a priority, but something has to stop with these racing cars. I heard it nightly, it’s a perpetual race track on Herndon, Blackstone, Alluvial and Nees all the way to Clovis. Set speed traps and when they catch them I am certain they will find illegal parts on these cars also. Come On Fresno…. we can do better than this!!

    Reply
  2. Anthony

    Good luck on stopping street racing or donuts it’s more common than you think your just wasting your time

    Reply
  3. Bernard Rieux

    You mean residents are more concerned about two-ton trucks racing at high speeds along their streets and doing donuts in intersections than they are about somebody on a bicycle riding the wrong direction? But the FPD managed to find the resources to give out over 70 bicyclist and pedestrian tickets just a couple weeks ago, and we didn’t hear anything in that article about having to make a tough choice between road safety vs. gang operations.

    Nothing in the STEP grant requires that it be used solely to target pedestrians and bicyclists rather than the drivers who are killing them—that’s just how Fresno police decide to use it. Maybe it’s because FPD officers find it easier to personally relate to the people speeding in raised pickup trucks than they do to the people who have to bike in the wrong direction because every bike lane in the city has a car parked in it.

    Reply
  4. Arthur

    I live very close to the Herndon and Fruit intersection…street racing has been taking place on Herndon for at least the last 10 years. Accidents are taking place, my block wall on Herndon will attest to that. I’ve had two people try to drive in to my back yard. The PD obviously are ignoring the issue.

    Reply

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