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Fresno police dodged bottles thrown at them from an unruly crowd of hundreds of people gathered in the parking lot of Target at Bullard and Blackstone last Friday night, authorities said.

Police believe the group was congregating and crusing in advance of illegal street racing, with some cars doing donuts in the parking lot.

None of the officers were hit or injured, according to officials.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to tell who threw the bottles,” Fresno Police Lt. Rob Beckwith tells GV Wire℠. “But we we did write several citations there during that incident.”

“It’s imminent.”Fresno Police Lt. Rob Beckwith says of an upcoming street racing operation in the city and county

Some of those citations were for vehicle modifications, which carry significant fines. The crowd in the parking lot dispersed after officers began issuing tickets, Beckwith said.

It’s a result the city of Fresno wants to replicate as part of a upcoming operation aimed at ridding streets of illegal racers. The exact timing and location of the operation is being kept under wraps.

Fresno police will be aided in the effort by California Highway Patrol units and the California Bureau of Automotive Repair to saturate areas known for the illegal activity.

“It’s imminent,” was the only hint Beckwith would offer on the timing of the operation.

Fresno police say as many as 400 vehicles were gathered in the Target parking lot at Bullard and Blackstone on February 12 around 9 p.m. Police say some were doing donuts as officers arrived. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

Targeted Operation

Photo of Mike Karbassi

“They (illegal racers) may not care about a ticket, but they care about their cars.”Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi

Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi’s office has been inundated with calls from residents frustrated with the numbers of street races in his northwest Fresno district.

“There’s going to be a very targeted operation,” Karbassi tells GV Wire℠. “They (illegal racers) may not care about a ticket, but they care about their cars. When we take that away from them, something that when abused can be a weapon, they’ll start paying more attention.”

Not only does he hope they’ll be paying more attention, but those that don’t will be paying a lot more money.

The Fresno police posted a message on social media warning that insurance premiums can increase by as much as 50% for those who violate street racing laws. Beckwith said with all the fees, ticket fines, impound charges, and insurance costs, street racers could be out as much as $16,000.

A Fresno PD motorcycle officer watches for street racing on Blackstone Avenue on December 27. (Courtesy/Fresno Police)

Teaming Up

“We’re here to combat the issue of illegal street racing not only in the city but out in the county.”California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Salas

California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Salas says his agency is teaming up with both Fresno police and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office to send a strong message.

“We’re here to combat the issue of illegal street racing not only in the city but out in the county,” says Salas.

Once the operation begins, Beckwith said, it’ll be ongoing with no specific end date. He said racers who have tried to elude police at high speeds won’t be able to easily do so this time. There will be unmarked patrol cars and undercover officers working in conjunction with the other members of the team.

“Fixed-wing aircraft as well as our Sky Watch helicopter will be used,” Beckwith said. “It‘s very important to us that we’re able to to put together an operation like this with other partners in law enforcement.”

An electronic billboard at Shaw and Blackstone alerts passing motorists to the upcoming speed racing enforcement. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

Message to Parents

Karbassi says parents need to pay attention.

“Some of you are probably paying for these cars or these insurance rates and they’re going to skyrocket,” says Karbassi.

Karbassi says it’s not about making people pay more money, he just wants lives to be saved. Four people were killed on December 26 at the intersection of Palm and Bullard in an accident police attribute to a driver who had been racing on Blackstone. That driver, who ran a red light at high speed, was killed along with the three occupants of another vehicle.

“We’ve had enough deaths from this kind of racing,” says Karbassi. “We’ve got to make sure we have safe streets and no one should be racing and going at excessive speeds on our roads.”

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