The Santa Rosa Police Department is committed to keeping the community safe, reducing violent crime, and preventing illegal sideshows from occurring within our city. Additionally, SRPD is dedicated to finding safe alternatives for Santa Rosa youth to express their passion for high-performance driving.
Over the summer, SRPD officers have begun participating in the bi-weekly “Top the Cops” event at Sonoma Raceway. Top the Cops runs as part of the raceway’s popular weekly Wednesday Night Drags program. Top the Cops offers an alternative to illegal street racing and gives teens the chance to race against local law enforcement officers, who compete in full uniform in their official vehicles. The program also provides a unique environment for the officers to talk with teens about safe driving and the rules of the road. Additional information about the Top the Cops program can be found at: www.sonomaraceway.com/media/news/high-school-students-law-enforcement-officers-prepare-burn-rubber-sonoma-raceway.html
SRPD officers will be out at the raceway this weekend and twice in August to race against local high school students. If you want your chance to race against an SRPD officer, visit https://www.sonomaraceway.com/experiences/sonoma-drags-drift/drags/  to find your next opportunity to meet at the track.
More information about the Sonoma Drags & Drifts event can be found at: www.sonomaraceway.com/experiences/sonoma-drags-drift/drags/
Chief Cregan believes, “Our new proactive and organized approach has worked to eliminate this behavior in Santa Rosa. Sideshows, previously a weekly disturbance, have become a rare occurrence in Santa Rosa. As our Chief of Police, I am empowered by the success of the collaborative partnership between our community, city leaders, police leaders, City of Santa Rosa departments, and the brave men and women of the Santa Rosa Police Department who executed the plan. I am very excited to collaborate with these same individuals and tackle any new problems we may face together as a community.”
About Sideshow Enforcement in Santa Rosa
One of Chief Cregan’s key priorities is violence reduction and maintaining public safety. Due to violent incidents that have occurred during illegal sideshows (shootings, stabbings, threats of violence, and assault on community members), the Santa Rosa Police Department regularly increases patrol resources when sideshows are expected, conducts zero-tolerance enforcement, coordinates with local law enforcement agencies, and educates the community on the dangers of participating in an illegal sideshow.
In 2022, Chief Cregan and community stakeholders worked with the Santa Rosa City Council to establish and adopt a sideshow ordinance that allows officers to arrest or cite participants, vehicle passengers, spectators, and organizers. Throughout 2022, we saw a 62% increase in sideshows from 2021 and averages to weekends of sideshows each month. Sideshow participants takeover private parking lots and public streets, causing thousands of dollars in damage to private businesses and taxpayers. The average cost to repair a standard intersection impacted by sideshows is $5,000 but the costs increase depending on the size of the intersection.
During sideshows in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, we have had promiscuous shootings, homicides, stabbings, and assaults. Sideshows are a danger to our community and strain police services for other significant calls for service. Additionally, other City projects are paused to address the damaged roads and environmental impacts caused by illegal sideshows.
Over the past two years, the Santa Rosa Police Department has partnered with other Santa Rosa City departments to engineer roadways and intersections that will deter and prevent sideshows from occurring. These engineering projects for illegal sideshows take away from preplanned road improvements in other areas and cost thousands of dollars. City teams have installed Bots Dots in more than 20 intersections, installed bumper blocks and delineators, and resurfaced more than a dozen intersections. Additionally, we have seen rubber and chunks of roadways go into storm drains, which lead to our creeks and waterways.
Illegal sideshows pose a significant threat to our community because of reckless driving and violence toward participants, community members, and first responders. They cause significant damage to roadways, sidewalks, and parking lots and threaten the safety of our creeks. Over the past two years, we have made numerous arrests, citations, and impounds associated with sideshow participation, but the Santa Rosa Police Department is also holding individuals who promote illegal and dangerous sideshows in Santa Rosa accountable.
Ongoing Efforts to Deter Sideshow Activity & Hold Violators Accountable
Over the last few years, Santa Rosa has experienced an increase in illegal and reckless driving exhibitions on City streets. These contests, known as “sideshows” (involving activities such as drifting, burnouts, and donuts), are held throughout the city several times per month, usually in the late night or early morning hours. Hundreds of participants and spectators at these dangerous sideshows converge on various public streets and off-street parking lots in both commercial and residential neighborhoods.
The adoption of the sideshow ordinance allows police officers to arrest or cite sideshow participants, vehicle passengers, spectators, and organizers, providing an additional tool for law enforcement to respond to and dissuade this illegal and unsafe behavior. The Santa Rosa Police Department has a zero-tolerance approach to people who come to Santa Rosa to participate in illegal and dangerous sideshows. In addition to arrests and citations, a vehicle actively participating in illegal sideshow activities will be impounded for 30 days. It will cost the registered owner more than $3,000 to recover their vehicle after the impound period.
SRPD detectives are working with the Santa Rosa City Attorney’s Office to examine civil litigation options to recover the costs for roadway repairs and engineering and City staff time for addressing sideshows (including public safety and transit staff). Not only should promoters be criminally responsible for their actions, but their actions have caused more than $100,000 in costs and city employee time.
The Santa Rosa Police Department’s Traffic Bureau is working with the Santa Rosa Department of Transportation and Public Works, allied law enforcement partners, and property owners to identify innovative strategies for deterring illegal sideshows. Speed bumps in private parking lots and Botts Dots/Bumper blocks on roadways are proving to be effective. With the assistance of Santa Rosa Transportation and Public Works approximately 20 intersections now have Botts Dots to deter sideshow activity. SRPD continues looking for new methods to maintain road safety and prevent illegal intersectional sideshows.
ARRESTS & VEHICLE IMPOUNDS
Any vehicle identified from illegal sideshows is wanted, and warrants are being issued for the vehicles. The warrants are uploaded into a California vehicle database, and the vehicles are listed as “wanted.” If the vehicle is stopped in Santa Rosa or any other city, the vehicle will be immediately impounded for 30 days. SRPD officers, led by SRPD Traffic Bureau, have impounded more than 60 vehicles since 2021.
Each of the vehicles will be held for 30 days and the registered owner is required to pay tow fees, storage fees, and release fees. The total cost is more than $3,000. Vehicles cannot be registered with DMV until the “wanted” status is cleared. Participants also face arrest and fines. The SRPD Traffic Bureau continues to work with allied agencies throughout Northern California to identify vehicles and participants in illegal sideshows.
Additionally, officers continue to arrest and cite participants in illegal sideshows. Traffic Investigators work with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office on criminal warrants and potential prosecutions.
COUNTYWIDE SIDESHOW ENFORCEMENT RESPONSE PLAN
Illegal sideshows are not localized to just Santa Rosa. They continue to be a dangerous problem in all cities in Sonoma County. SRPD worked with local law enforcement leaders and took the lead in drafting a Countywide Sideshow Enforcement Response Plan. The goal is to have a unified approach to addressing sideshows while supporting each jurisdiction with the necessary personnel and resources to effectively deter sideshows and hold participants, spectators, and promoters accountable.