Video: Police had plan to disrupt illegal street racing event that attracted 200 vehicles to Hawke's Bay
Police were prepared for an illegal street racing event in Hawke’s Bay at the weekend and were able to disrupt the activities of 200 vehicles that descended on Hawke’s Bay.
Police had a heavy enforcement presence on Saturday night, but a surveillance drone used to monitor the vehicles was targeted with fireworks by participants.
In an interview with Hawke’s Bay App today, Eastern Districts Road Police Manager Inspector Angela Hallett said police were able to plan a strategy to monitor the convoy of vehicles moving around Hawke’s Bay.
“We were able to set up a large checkpoint and largely disrupt their activities. They were intent on doing some skidding and other illegal activities, which would damage the road and cause risk to other road users.
“We had a big operation in place to keep the roads safe and, hopefully, disrupt the activities, which I think we were pretty successful in doing.”
Hallett said that nine vehicles involved in the illegal street racing were removed from the roads on Saturday, with at least one of those obtained on private property.
“We had our JP give us a warrant to allow us to go on there and seize it. Those vehicles are now impounded for 28 days so they're off the road.”
“There were other vehicles impounded for persons who were suspended drivers, or there was also one impounded for someone who had fled the police, failed to stop. So that's also another qualifying offense for impounding a vehicle and it's mandatory 28 days that it's impounded for.”
Hallett says that illegal street racing has been fairly consistent in Hawke’s Bay over the years, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
“But the large gatherings like the one we saw in last weekend, there's less of those and we tend to find out about them in advance.”
She says police were prepared for the police drone to be targeted with fireworks, but it did not disrupt the monitoring role it played.
“It had no effect on the drone and they were able to avoid having any damage to it and still able to observe the activity. But it was a reasonably long period where fireworks were launched directly at the drone. We were able to carry on watching the activity and send our staff along at a point when it was safe to stop those vehicles leaving the area.”
“Last year we had a large gathering of illegal street races at Guy Fawkes and they actually did use fireworks directly at our staff on a checkpoint. So we took steps this year to plan around that risk and we had some of our public order teams working at our checkpoints to watch the crowd and make sure we were alert to that issue.”
Part of the planning to monitor this event involved other agencies like Fire Emergency New Zealand and Hato Hone St John Ambulance.
“We had the fire service working with us in our command room, keeping an eye on things because there's also the fire risk to the environment that's very dry despite this week's rain.”
“There's a very big risk with the activities that could cause sparks and could set fire to some of the grass and other flammable things in the industrial areas. We were alert to that risk and we were taking it very seriously around the safety of our staff.”
Hallett is quite clear about what members of the public should do if they encounter illegal street racing.
“What we do want is obviously keep yourselves safe and, when able to, please contact us to let us know it's happening. We will take that very seriously. So do call 111. It is serious. Obviously our call centres triage phone calls and our communication centres will deal with it.”
“Even if we're not able to attend at the time, having the intelligence around when it's happening and where is very important. When I have been invited to speak to community groups concerned about this kind of behaviour, the first thing we ask for is for people to report it at the time. Because then we have the best chance of actually stopping those drivers that are doing the activity.”
Hallett said she had spoken to a member of the public who had called 111 really concerned. “She was still very shaken, having come across the vehicles and convoy doing some dangerous driving, and she was very shaken by the fact that she was forced to basically keep well off the road to not get injured.”
“It's frightening for members of the public and we do take it seriously and respond. We were able to reassure those people who rang on the weekend that we were actually already there and dealing with the matter.”
Watch the accompanying video to see the full interview with Inspector Angela Hallett.