ST. LUCIE COUNTY − The illegal events can draw hundreds of spectators and vehicles, and feature potentially dangerous and reckless driving.
They take place at predetermined sites, usually blocking a large intersection as motorists perform burnouts, drifting, doughnuts and other maneuvers in close proximity to spectators.
“They’re pretty flippant towards law enforcement,” Assistant Port St. Lucie Police Chief Richard Del Toro said, speaking of the events in general. “They’ll pretty much try to ignore us, they’ll attack police cars throwing fireworks.”
Known as “street takeovers,” the gatherings are growing in popularity elsewhere in Florida and the country.
The first one in St. Lucie County happened late March 4 into March 5, resulting in four arrests. Port St. Lucie police in a report stated the takeover attracted between 100 to 200 vehicles.
‘First time that I’ve witnessed something like this’
Video from a sheriff’s helicopter captures a car doing a doughnut, or circular spinning motions leaving skid marks, with dozens of people close by at West Midway and Glades Cut Off roads east of Interstate 95.
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“This is the first time that I’ve witnessed something like this,” said Sheriff Ken Mascara, who has been sheriff more than two decades. “These were mainly people from other counties coming here to do this.”
According to Port St. Lucie police records, about seven calls for service came in regarding the group. Callers reported “large groups of vehicles and subjects were doing burnouts in the car, intentionally blocking off intersections while firing off fireworks,” records show. When investigators showed up, they fled in their vehicles.
Police reported on Southwest Tom Mackie Boulevard west of I-95 in the Tradition area an officer in an unmarked car saw “several large fireworks being detonated” and vehicles doing burnouts, doughnuts, sliding and drifting.
“While conducting surveillance, I could hear a male subject on a megaphone or a PA system enticing attendees to do burnouts,” a report states.
Vehicles “took over” the intersection of Southwest Tom Mackie Boulevard and Southwest Discovery Way, blocking traffic.
‘Spin it, spin it, spin it’
Police stopped a Lexus with a 23-year-old West Palm Beach man as a passenger. A megaphone between his legs, the man told police “he was on the sideline on his megaphone and trying to get everyone hyped up. (He) encourages all the attendees to get involved.” Police reported recovering marijuana in the vehicle.
In a video on Instagram, the West Palm Beach man used his megaphone, saying, “Spin it, spin it, spin it, spin it, spin that (expletive) one, what the (expletive) do you have a Challenger for?” A Dodge Challenger is a muscle car with a V-8 engine.
Elsewhere in Port St. Lucie, police said a 15-year-old boy from Hollywood fled authorities in a Chevrolet Camaro, crashing in the area of Northwest Peacock and Northwest California boulevards. Two other people were in the vehicle, as well as marijuana and THC (the principal psychoactive part of cannabis) products, records state.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis last year signed a bill into a law to address activities including street takeovers. It includes prohibiting people from driving in a takeover, or stunt driving, and also from coordinating through social media or otherwise, the events. It prohibits people from knowingly being a spectator at them or being a passenger in a vehicle in one. Further, the law defined terms including “burnout,” “drifting,” “doughnut,” “street takeover,” “stunt driving,” and “wheelie.”
Fatalities have been associated with the events elsewhere in Florida and the country, according to Del Toro and news reports.
‘They don’t try to hide it’
According to an analysis of the bill, information regarding deaths, injuries and accidents in Florida from these events isn’t readily available.
“However, there are accounts of these events happening throughout the state,” the analysis states. “In Jacksonville, street takeover participants have acknowledged that their meet-ups have anywhere from 300 to thousands of people in attendance, and residents nearby indicate that these events are dangerous and often continue until well past midnight.”
Del Toro said investigators got a tip about the recent event from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. The events spread via word-of-mouth, text message and social media.
“They don’t try to hide it,” he said. “They’re a pretty brazen group.”
Del Toro said traffic issues are top concerns for those in the area, noting police in 2022 wrote about 50,000 citations and warnings.
“We’re pretty hard on traffic, especially when it’s stuff like this where it’s aggressive driving, aggressive behavior,” Del Toro said. “This isn’t the stuff that we want to see in Port St. Lucie.”
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Mascara said it appears generating attention online plays a role in “street takeovers.”
“They want to get this on social media, get the views,” he said.
He said if people suspect this is going to take place they can call 911.
“We definitely want to be involved in investigating these incidents, and putting those people in jail,” Mascara said. “For them to orchestrate such an event, they don’t really care about law and order.”