Cops, street racers, gear up for another north suburban summer


Mike Munzenrider Highway 280 through Lauderdale is a popular throughway for Twin Cities street racing. As spring becomes summer, local law enforcement is working to deter racing on public roads, both from nuisance and public safety standpoints.

Friday night into Saturday, March 30, might have been the unofficial start of street racing in the north suburbs.

“This is the first weekend I heard about it,” said Lauderdale City Administrator Heather Butkowski, who’s no stranger to fielding resident complaints about loud exhaust pipes screeching up Highway 280.

St. Anthony police officers, who patrol the small suburb of 2,500 people, took to Facebook Live in the early morning hours that Saturday, standing on the shoulder of the trunk highway to illustrate some of the annoyances and dangers presented by racing at fast speeds on public roads.

In the video, officer Kiel Rushton points out the sound wall just feet from the shoulder off northbound Highway 280; right on its other side are houses.

“If you drive past with the loud exhaust at full throttle,” he says, “you’re going to wake those people up.”

If a driver loses control and hits the wall? 

“That wall will win,” says Rushton, who with his colleague, officer Joe South, goes on to discuss fights, shootings and near calamities — a car driving in a pack of vehicles at 84 mph on 280 with a 3-year-old in the back seat — that they’ve experienced dealing with street racing. The take-away message from the video was that races should be held on a track.

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the cops are protecting,” South says in the video. “Well, maybe we’re protecting you from yourself.”

 

Race spots

St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth toned down what his cops on the street had said in their video, noting that the loud, imported cars traversing Highway 280 might not be trying to see who can go the fastest.

“Just the noise from the exhaust alone gives the perception that cars are racing,” he said.

St. Anthony Sgt. Mike Huddle, who’s worked saturation details for racing that involve other agencies like the State Patrol, and the police departments from St. Paul, Minneapolis and Roseville, said Highway 280 is a vector between spots such racers are known to congregate and race.

He said there’s a Holiday gas station and Wendy’s restaurant in Minneapolis near Broadway Street and Highway 280 where racers hang out, and then just more than a mile north up the highway is a racing spot, in Roseville, at Walnut Street and County Road C.

Roseville Deputy Chief Erika Scheider said officers from her department were at that racing spot around 1:30 a.m. March 30 dealing with a large group of racers — in some instances there can be 50 to 60 cars involved.

She said the industrial zone around the cross streets is largely empty of residents late on weekend nights and provides straight roads for racing and open parking lots from which people can post up to watch.

Still, she said, business owners in the area will begin calling the police department around 9 p.m. some nights to complain about racing activity, be it people loitering on private property or concerns about dangerous driving.

A Roseville officer issued a single citation for reckless driving to a racer March 30, she said, but catching drivers in the act can be tough — the groups will post lookouts to keep an eye out for cops, and they keep it moving.

“They meet, pick a spot, go, and then when they get shaked out, they come back,” said Scheider.

 

Not stopping

Perhaps the biggest concern for Roseville PD is the resources required to deal with large groups of cars. Scheider said it can take two or three squads to handle such calls. Roseville has six squads total working a typical weekend night, and racing complaints pull officers away from other calls.

Mangseth said that law enforcement can only do so much. If racers congregate in private lots, lot owners need to report it to police. He said residents can raise concerns to property owners.

“Ultimately we need to rely on the residents in our community to be our eyes and ears,” Mangseth said.

Both Scheider and Huddle said racers appear undeterred by citations and other interactions with police.

“The folks involved in this are slow to react, or don’t understand the danger that they present,” said Huddle, noting it’s both a public safety issue and a matter of the racers’ well-being. “They seem resistant to react to this.”

Having just gotten confirmation from the State Patrol that it would continue to work this year with St. Anthony PD on saturation details, Huddle said he was ready for another summer of deterring racing.

“We really need the word out there that we aren’t going away,” he said, “we’re not going to stop.”

 

–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

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