FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A proposed Fresno city ordinance aimed at cracking down on side shows and other street racing activity was heard at Fresno City Council on Thursday
If approved, the ordinance would make any involvement, spectating, or promoting of sideshows – even on social media – illegal in the City of Fresno.
“What makes me a little bit uncomfortable is we’re now criminalizing a witness to a crime,” said Councilmember Luis Chavez.
Chavez called for caution, citing concern that those in the vicinity of street racing could be caught up in a prosecution.
“What I don’t want to happen is I don’t want us to get caught up in an ACLU conversation with regards to freedom to assemble, freedom of speech.”
Other California cities, including Stockton and Turlock, have similar ordinances; Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz says ordinances like this have yet to be challenged.
Council President Tyler Maxwell supported the proposed ordinance.
“I think if we don’t trust our police officers and we don’t trust our city attorney, we have a bigger issue than sideshows in the City of Fresno…I’m going to be supportive of this today because I want this over with,” said Maxwell.
Fresno’s Police Chief Paco Balderrama says it would be at his officers’ discretion whether or not someone found to be near a sideshow was charged as a spectator – telling city councilmembers that being in the wrong place at the wrong time is not going to land someone in trouble.
“Realistically speaking, we don’t have the resources to arrest 300 people at an intersection on a given night,” said Chief Balderrama. “What we’re doing is we’re focusing on the individuals who are participating in the street racing, who are facilitating illegal activities, who are blocking the streets.”
The final vote on the ordinance was postponed until next week, giving Fresno City Councilmembers more time to revise language in the ordinance before it is approved.
If the proposed ordinance passes, it would go into effect 31 days from the date it is approved.