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Illegal street racing 'flash mob' rattles Tacoma's North End neighborhood

Neighbors said more than 100 people swarmed a quiet residential intersection to watch and film illegal street racing stunts Saturday night.

TACOMA, Wash. — Summer may be coming to a close, but dangerous street racing is still an issue in the South Puget Sound.

According to police, more than 20 cars quickly swarmed a quiet residential neighborhood in Tacoma's North End. Soon enough, police said the number of cars started to multiply, and neighbors said they ultimately saw more than 100 people flood their sidewalks and front lawns.

"I’m worried about those kids, like they’re out here, and it’s only a matter of time before they get hurt or somebody they care about gets hurt," said Michael Schwartz, who lives in one of the neighboring homes.

Tire marks left behind tell a clear story of drivers performing dangerous burnouts in the relatively small intersection of N 33rd St. and Gove St., which is surrounded by family homes.

"Between 60 and 80 cars," said his wife Vanessa. “Everywhere, walking through here, with cameras and drones.” 

Neighbors said they moved in quickly.

"Like a flash mob," said neighbor John Green.

Vanessa Schwartz added, "I called 911 again and I said, like, 'You need to get here now.'"

According to the Tacoma Police Department, concerned neighbors called 911 to place more than 56 calls for service. 

However, it is the police response that has neighbors like Green and Schwartz scratching their heads.

"I started screaming at these officers like, 'We need help get them out of here, our children are in these houses," Vanessa Schwartz said. 

Police used their cars to block off the roads and blast lights and sirens.

"There were probably four or five cars, but they just sat there," Green said. "And so then when I asked them what was going on, they said, 'We just want to give them an out. And I said what about giving them a ticket? And they said ‘We don’t do that.’”

Meanwhile, Vanessa Schwartz said the illicit street racers carried on with their donuts and dangerous maneuvers, and said some even engaged in screaming matches with concerned neighbors. 

"There’s a police officer right here and he goes, ‘If you think I’m afraid of the police,' and he was calling me every name in the book, 'You got another thing comin,'" Vanessa Schwartz said. "'You got another thing comin.'"

Home surveillance video even captured audio of the alleged race attendees boasting.

“You all scared of the police?" can be heard on the video playback. "We not! What’s up?"

Now, neighbors are left to wonder if that so-called flash mob will be back. 

"That sort of thing doesn’t really happen around here," said another neighbor.

"I think the most disappointing part of it was the police response," Green said. 

Detective William Muse, a spokesperson for the Tacoma Police Department, said, "If we have the ability to de-escalate, which is what the legislature wants us to do, that's what we had to do."

"If we don't have the justification for it, we need to stop chasing people, based on current state law," Muse said.

Muse emphasized that de-escalation is critical for the safety of the community in instances like these. He told KING 5 in a phone call that due to current Washington state laws, they are unable to pursue people for reckless driving or for traffic infractions. 

“A subordinate jurisdiction would not be able to say you can pursue when state law says that you can’t," Muse said. 

Saturday night's incident comes after several other street racing incidents in Tacoma this month. Just days ago KING 5 reported on the frustration caused by two other street racing incidents. Those, however, were in South Tacoma, and police said businesses sustained damage and a car even crashed into a bus stop and injured a teenager.

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