San Francisco, CA

Fast & Furious on 19th and Ulloa, San Francisco sideshows waste lives, police time, and upset the residents

Karen Madej

The SFPD doesn't know where or when a sideshow will happen. Officers are dealing with calls all over their parts of the city at any time of the day or night. When calls start coming in about a sideshow there's little in their power they can do.

On the one hand, residents want police to break up sideshows quickly, while on the other, police do not want to initiate a clash with participants and create a situation in which they might resort to deadly force. JULIAN MARK

In the distant past, you could go to an organized and sanctioned sideshow event. Travel further back in time to the origins of hip hop in the 1970s when crowds gathered on a casual basis in Eastmont Mall or Foothill Square parking lots to let off steam and celebrate life. The events then involved showing off their customized and decorative 1960s and 70s American muscle cars.

Locations changed over the decades, parking lots weren't big enough to house the audiences. By the mid-1990s, sideshows were more popular than nightclubs for under 21s. Mainly because nightclubs wouldn't let them in.

Sideshows have become more prolific and wild in recent years. From folks strolling around and admiring stunning automobiles in the 70s to a bystander firing an automatic gun into the air and another being flipped and almost losing their pants in 2018.

The day before Mayor Breed's desire for San Francisco to be safe for tourists was reported on by NBC Bay Area TV yet another sideshow clip, this time Harrison & Fremont was uploaded to YouTube. Businesses, where tourists visit, help keep communities alive and a city to prosper. Twenty-six police officers have been added to patrol various tourist areas.

Not much has changed in recent months

In fact, you never know where a sideshow will pop up. and they are cropping up with increased regularity. Whether spur of the moment or weeks in the planning, organizers arrange for cars and people to participate and watch the show at different locations.

Often viewers or drivers bring firearms. But these aren't the only weapons. The latest fashion is to use lasers to interfere with officers' eyesight while driving, even let off fireworks and launch random items at them.

To deal with hundreds of onlookers the police would need units from all parts of the city. The quickest that could physically happen is 15-30 minutes. When police units identify a huge convoy of vehicles heading somewhere, they can't even use tools like roadblocks, and spike trips because, for one, they'd have to get approval, and secondly, can you imagine how difficult it would be to have enough officers in place to control 300 and more participants. That's drivers out for fun with guns and their vehicles could do serious damage to onlookers.

Sunday night July 19, 2021, at the intersection of Harrison and Fremont streets.

The victim is the city

Strange though it may seem, these events are property crimes. The victim is the city itself and sometimes citizens. The occasional onlooker gets struck by a vehicle. Although there is no doubt the cars burning rubber all over intersections are dangerous, injury to bystanders is also a property crime. This limits what the PD is prepared to do for them. They avoid creating situations where they might have to use force or endanger the public.

If the PD were to block in all the participants, arrest them, and tow their cars these actions could cause vehicles to attempt escape in very dangerous ways. Driving on sidewalks and in the wrong directions on streets and highways would only make a bad situation worse. San Francisco is not Hollywood!

Sideshows, where people take over the streets and cause chaos, must cause dread to the officers called out to monitor them. Surely what they'd really like to do is be allowed to use roadblocks and arrest everyone?

In the meantime, SFPD sticks to causing participants great financial pain. When the PD arrive at a sideshow they film everybody in the crowds and they collect vehicle tags.

In the days and weeks following a sideshow, police departments run license plates and identify owners. They identify members of the audience. And then they go after them. They get court orders from judges and tow and impound their cars. Getting cars out of the pound is very expensive for the owners.

With their hands tied, all the police can do is seize vehicles after the event.

Another sideshow event.

Will Bott's Dots prevent future sideshows?

A solution six months in the making finally went into action on 35th avenue and Mac Arthur Boulevard in July. The hope is the ceramic domes will irritate the donut makers so much they'll give up.

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.

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