Public safety:

Mil­wau­kee is mov­ing to put the brakes on its il­le­gal street rac­ing scene.

Milwaukee Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS - By ADAM RO­GAN

Of­fi­cials are try­ing to crack down on Mil­wau­kee’s ro­bust il­le­gal street rac­ing scene.

“When I was grow­ing up, I watched the Fast and the Fu­ri­ous movies. I loved the way the cars looked, the way they sounded, how fast they went,” says Bailey, a 20-year-old from Lake Geneva with an eye­brow ring.

He drives a Maz­daspeed 6. It’s an af­ford­able sedan with over 200 horse­power; newer mod­els can go 0 to 60 in less than six sec­onds. Bailey, who asked that his last name not be used in this story, tests that speed against other gear­heads in the streets of metro Mil­wau­kee al­most ev­ery week.

They race il­le­gally, burn­ing rub­ber in the face of law­mak­ers and law-en­forcers look­ing to slash their tires.

Mil­wau­kee’s drag rac­ers are re­mark­ably me­thod­i­cal. Bailey’s crew of 30-40 meets at a pre­de­ter­mined park­ing lot on the West Side ev­ery Fri­day and Satur­day night be­fore cruis­ing to an empty stretch of road on the out­skirts of town – some­where they won’t be both­ered by lo­cals or po­lice – where they race two-by-two down the strip. Spot­ters keep an eye out for traf­fic and law en­force­ment. They usu­ally have 30 min­utes to an hour be­fore a passerby calls 911, at which point ev­ery­body scrams. “Usu­ally when cops start coming is when idiots start get­ting reck­less,” Bailey says. “There’s, like, no rules. Have fun. If you get caught, you’re on your own. Don’t snitch.”

Crashes are rare but mem­o­rable. Last fall, a man who was rac­ing his Ford Mus­tang with his young son in the car got in a wreck, Bailey re­calls. They were both OK, but Bailey hasn’t seen them rac­ing since.

An­other driver swore off street rac­ing af­ter his own crash at 130 mph. “I still con­tinue to have my au­to­mo­tive pas­sion, but I be­lieve that all-out rac­ing should be for the track,” says the man, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied. “I’m all for hav­ing a safe place to be able to legally race.”

On se­lect Tues­days, the Mil­wau­kee Mile opens its track to com­mu­nity rac­ers for “Street Drags,” but this hasn’t nicked the il­le­gal scene much. Bailey says it just doesn’t scratch the high-speed itch for those in the “rebel scene.”

Even if rac­ers are caught, the heav­i­est penalty for first-time of­fend­ers is a non­crim­i­nal speed­ing and reck­less driv­ing ticket, though that can carry a fine up to $500.

The Mil­wau­kee Com­mon Coun­cil unan­i­mously passed a res­o­lu­tion in May that al­lows po­lice to ticket race spec­ta­tors $20-$400 sim­ply for be­ing there, but crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney Ray Dall’Osto thinks the or­di­nance is on thin ice al­ready. “There could be prob­lems re­sult­ing from con­sti­tu­tional law for fin­ing spec­ta­tors,” Dall’Osto says. “They’re not rac­ing. They’re not vi­o­lat­ing the law.”

Com­mon Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Ashanti Hamil­ton be­lieves more ed­u­ca­tion may slow rac­ers. More driv­ers ed classes would lead to safer de­ci­sion-mak­ing, Hamil­ton says. “I think peo­ple have got­ten re­ally com­fort­able with this kind of be­hav­ior,” Hamil­ton says. “We have to do some­thing to make peo­ple know the con­se­quences of their ac­tions.”

Bailey is unfazed. The new re­stric­tions won’t slow him down.

“Why bother?” he says. “Rac­ing is go­ing to hap­pen re­gard­less.”

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