Santa Clarita street racing spectators given second chance

File photo: Tire marks cover the road on Constellation Road in Valencia, near where actor Paul Walker was killed in a car crash on Nov. 30, 2013. A recent street racing operation in the area recently netted more than 100 arrests, many of which were addressed in court Thursday. Katharine Lotze/Signal

As the dozens of young adults, and even a few teenagers with their parents, filed into Department 1 at the Santa Clarita Courthouse at lunchtime, the first thing that was explained to them was they were getting a second chance.

As part of addressing a recent speed-racing activity in a Valencia industrial park, California Highway Patrol, District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Station officials put together a sting that netted more than 109 arrests.

A total of 102 arrests were made for participating or simply watching the illegal speed event, California Highway Patrol Captain Edward Krusey told The Signal on June 30.

The lion’s share of those arrested were at court Thursday for a class taught by CHP officers on the dangers of making bad decisions behind the wheel.

While some of those arrested were charged with more serious crimes, the courtroom full of participants Thursday and Friday met certain criteria, according to Alisanne Scolnik, deputy district attorney in charge of the Santa Clarita office: All had no criminal records to speak of; no modifications to their car that indicated regular participation in street racing; never been caught at a street racing event; and when they were contacted by law enforcement officers during the sting operation last June, they were cooperative.

“Coming here was a good decision,” Scolnik said, “I will not file charges on you, but I do want you to continue to make good decisions like you did by coming in today, and to be ambassadors, so that you and your friends can make good decisions like today, in the future.”

Scolnik explained that she was using her discretion with this large-sized “office hearing,” because she thought it was in the community’s best interests to educate the drivers.

Officer Gavin Glauser of the Newhall CHP office taught the class alongside Officer Josh Greengard, kicking it off by noting the problem had been going on for a while, and what drew the attention of law enforcement, was when the racers “crossed the line,” with their dangerous habits, including making a regular habit of showing up at the park on Thursday nights, and even going as far as spray painting “The Drift Spot,” on a local business’ property.

The class was about 90 minutes long, and covered some of the consequences, such as what would happen to the drivers if they found themselves in a similar situation — the outcome wouldn’t be an administrative hearing and they’d have a permanent record.

In fact, just last week, the third suspect of seven arrested for more serious charges during the sting, including a misdemeanor count of engaging in a motor vehicle speed contest, was fined $355 plus court fees and ordered to pay $150 in restitution, and sentenced to 40 hours community service and 12 months summary probation.

The proceedings are continuing Friday, as the courthouse is accommodating the District Attorney’s Office during the lunch hour, to allow dozens more into the classroom.

The consistent message from the law enforcement officials Thursday made it clear which of the options they were focusing on, of the three Es to address this problem, education, engineering or enforcement.

“We’d rather educate you now,’” Greengard told the class, “than have to enforce later.”

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