Saturday night brought a whirlwind of high-speed activity for Sacramento-area police, deputies and California Highway Patrol officers, who responded to multiple “sideshows” that may or may not have been connected or coordinated and impounded a total of 10 vehicles, according to the CHP.
In the largest incident, the CHP responded to calls of approximately 100 cars cutting off Interstate 5 near the Pocket area. Cars began doing stunts and donuts across the six lanes of traffic – trapping unsuspecting drivers in the blockage along with them, the CHP said.
CHP officers also responded to an intersection takeover at North Loop Boulevard and Elverta Road at approximately 10:30 p.m. Officers impounded a vehicle and cited two people, the CHP said.
An additional vehicle fled the scene going over 100 miles per hour down Interstate 80. The vehicle was eventually stopped and cited, officials said.
The Sacramento Police Department responded to one sideshow near Florin Street and Amherst Road at approximately 11:10 p.m. Saturday, according to Officer Vance Chandler. Assisted by a CHP officer, Sacramento police were guided to the vehicle. The driver and two other passengers were detained, and the driver was later cited, officials said.
Sideshows have become increasingly common in the Sacramento area, according to one CHP officer. “Just in the past two-three years it’s been a very notable increase in size and frequency, also types of activities they are doing,” said Jared Boothe, flight officer and helicopter paramedic with CHP Valley Division Air Operations.
The incidents are more frequent in the summer, when coordinated groups, usually car clubs, “block some form of major roadway and start doing burnouts, donuts, sometimes launching fireworks, sometimes shooting guns in the air, causing damage to property” in some cases, Boothe said.
Why they’ve become more frequent isn’t clear to Boothe, but he explains the difficulty of responding to the events, which typically are planned ahead and escalate quickly.
Officers sometimes have to forgo making arrests for the sake of contacting and citing more dangerous drivers.
“When you start to arrest somebody you are kind of stuck with that person for a while because you are now responsible for their well-being,” explained Boothe, “so sometimes contacting more people involved becomes the priority.”
Officers walk a tricky line between issuing citations and making charges that are consequential enough to deter the impromptu and highly dangerous events, while also working to dissipate and end the immediately risk to others on the road or in the vicinity.
The CHP is working with the District Attorney’s Office to curb sideshow activity. “We need to make sure that when these people are caught that the charges stick,” Boothe said.
For bystanders who find themselves in the vicinity of dangerous driving and sideshow activity, Boothe urged them to focus on their personal safety. “Try to stay out of the area as much as possible” if you see reckless activity begin, Boothe said.
If you get stuck among the vehicles because you are surrounded, “lock your doors, stay in vehicle, call 911 and wait for assistance,” Boothe recommended. He noted that the focus is on keeping uninvolved drivers out of harm’s way, especially if someone were to attempt to confront participants for blocking their cars.
“We are trying to prevent people from getting hurt,” Boothe said. “Once sideshow starts it’s already elevated to high-risk level.”