The Turlock Police Department now has two new tools under their belts when it comes to dealing with party hosts who allow underage drinking and cannabis use and those who fill city streets and parking lots to watch illegal sideshows or street racing events.
The Turlock City Council approved two new ordinances on Tuesday that will hit those being a part of the problem in their wallets, and in the case of being a sideshow spectator, could land them in jail.
For the past few years, the City of Turlock has been dealing with an increase in illegal sideshow/street racing incidents. These illegal gatherings of drivers who perform dangerous tricks and/or racing on city streets and parking lots often obstruct traffic, tie up law enforcement, have directly negatively impacted public safety and been the scene of at least one fatal shooting.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a new ordinance that would make being a sideshow spectator a misdemeanor crime punishable by an administrative fine of $1,000 per incident and/or up to six months in jail.
A ‘spectator’ is defined in the ordinance as “any person who is present at a street race or reckless driving exhibition, or the site of the preparations for either of these activities, for the purpose of viewing, observing, watching or witnessing the event as it progresses.” The spectator must also be within 200 feet of the location of the street race or sideshow to be cited.
Police Captain Miguel Pacheco gave an update on recent sideshow activity around Turlock. In 2021-2022, the Turlock Police Department had close to 160 incidents of sideshow calls or sideshow-related calls. He showed the Council a map which showed that the westside of town has seen the majority of sideshow activity, followed by the Monte Vista Crossings shopping area.
“If you take our standard night and swing shift staff numbers, clearly we cannot handle that with just the number of patrol officers we have at any given time,” said Pacheco.
“In the City of Turlock we have, as many departments, at times have our staff stretched going to calls in progress. When we use some of the tools at the department and have some prewarning that these events are coming, we can actually set up an operation with our allied agencies. We help them, they assist us; we’ve had great success.”
Two of those allied agency operations include one on July 21, 2021 at Monte Vista Crossings area. A total of 16 officers from Turlock Police and the California Highway Patrol focused on combating illegal traffic activities in the area, resulting in 65 citations being issues, one arrest and two vehicles towed. An enforcement effort on March 4, 2022 with Turlock Police, CHP and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office in the Regal Cinemas/Tractor Supply parking lot resulted in 21 traffic stops and 20 citations for vehicle code violations.
Some of the dangers officers face when responding to a sideshow event starts with the large crowds and then multiple vehicles fleeing at one time. Officers have to decide between initiating a chase to make those drivers accountable and the public’s safety during a chase, said Pacheco.
“In May 2021, I think most folks remember the horrifying video, and I will classify it as that, of some folks jumping on our fire engine that was actually clearing a call or going to a call or both and taking some apparatus off the truck and actually delaying those fire engines of going to a call…a complete disregard for public safety at that point,” he said.
He also brought up the Dec. 30, 2022 event where one person was fatally shot at a sideshow at Tegner and Fulkerth roads.
“The Turlock Police Department has been dealing with this for at least a couple years now and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better,” said Pacheco.
He went on to say that police department has put together a multi-pronged approach to address the sideshow issue, and the spectator ordinance is just one tool to discourage the events from happening in Turlock. Before the Council approved the new spectator ordinance on Tuesday, it was not illegal to attend a sideshow or street race in Turlock.
The new social host liability ordinance includes a $1,000 fine for the “responsible person” who allowed underage drinking or cannabis use at their party.
The ordinance defines the “responsible person” as any person with an ownership interest or right of possession in residence, such as a renter or lessee. If the responsible person is a minor, the ordinance makes clear that the minor’s parents or guardians will be jointly liable for any penalties — even if they had no knowledge of the party or serving of alcohol and/or cannabis to underage persons.
Turlock Police Chief Jason Hedden presented the draft version of the new social host ordinance to the City Council at their Jan. 24 meeting.
“Studies has shown that strong social host ordinances have reduced the number of parties that serve alcohol beverages and cannabis to underage persons,” said Hedden.
While increasing the fine for party hosts who serve underage persons alcohol is important, Hedden said the City also needs to add cannabis to the ordinance since recreational cannabis has a big footprint in Turlock.
“We’re looking to put some teeth into this and there will be a public information campaign. We want people to know that Turlock is serious about this and we don’t tolerate serving underage minors who might get into a car,” said Hedden.