Cleveland city councilman addresses street racing increase, suggests action plan

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 5:01 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s a major neighborhood nuisance, likely playing out on your own street.

What can be done, though, to crack down on dangerous drag racers?

Last month, we told you calls to police for these speeding drivers are up significantly from last year.

This week, we took our 19 investigation a step further, looking for solutions that could keep you and your family safe.

Mike Polensek is the only one of 16 council members that even responded to 19 investigates when we reached out about the street racing problem in Cleveland.

Then, he sat down to talk about the 23% increase we uncovered in calls to police about drag racing this year.

“I’m tired of it,” he said. “This city has become so ‘lax.’ It becomes so ‘lax.’ And, then you wonder why there’s chaos in our streets. People want to be able to drive the streets without fear.”

He said he’s tired of the property damage, tired of the disruption and tired of losing young lives.

“Every member of this body has gotten complaints, which we never had before,” he said. “Years ago we never had this. It started to surface during 2020, and it just is steadily gotten worse.”

Polensek wants the city to seek help from the Ohio State Patrol.

“They are very effective organization as we know they don’t play games,” he said.

He also explained that it doesn’t cost the city money if the agency agrees to help.

Last week, just days after our report on drag racing, CPD said it cited 34 people and arrested 5 in an operation that did NOT involve the state highway patrol called STOP-- Stop Street Takeovers Permanently.

The problem is that there have to be officers on the streets whether you’re combatting the problem with stings or routine traffic stops.

In last week’s safety committee meeting, CPD leadership told councilmembers the department is nearly 300 officers short. And, the deficit is deepening as officers continue to leave at a record rate.

“That’s a big problem that has affected traffic enforcement,” Polensek said. “As long as we have this problem with the deployment, we’re going to need to get help from again outside agencies. It has to be a frequent effort. It just can’t be well now every now and that’s it. There’s got to be a system to it. Then you start to set the tone.”

We reached out to the state patrol and a spokesperson confirmed the agency could augment traffic enforcement in Cleveland.

Sgt. Ray Sasntiago said in part, “these types of initiatives are data-driven and a review of statistical data for the area would occur to ensure the effort is necessary. If a review determines traffic issues exist, it is then dependent upon the availability of resources during the timeframe being requested. The Patrol has previously assisted the City of Cleveland and that collaboration is ongoing.”

The city worked with the state patrol this spring, conducting a weekend-long operation to catch illegal ATV and dirt bikers.

19 Investigates requested an interview with Cleveland’s newly sworn-in Police Chief and are waiting to hear back on whether he will speak to us.

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