Copycat Drivers Turn Los Angeles Streets Into Racing Hotspots


Almost every night, motorists race down the street outside Rene Favela’s home in Angelino Heights, Los Angeles.

“People are crossing at 2 a.m., 2 p.m.,” said Favela, who moved to the neighborhood just north of downtown Los Angeles 17 years ago with his wife, Bella .

Now with one child, the couple worried about dangerous street racing and stunts outside their front door – the commotion which neighbors say has been stoked by the fast furious film franchise, whose fans flock to the streets of Angelino Heights that Vin Diesel’s character calls home.

Favela understands that street racing in Los Angeles predates the franchise, which first came out in 2001, but he can’t help but think the movies are contributing to the problem.

“You don’t mean it encourages street racing, but you know, it doesn’t help,” Favela said outside his home on Bellevue Avenue, where the asphalt is marred with black tire tracks.

On Friday (September 9), protesters in Angelino Heights rallied against the shooting of x fastthe 10th installment in the franchise, which residents say glamorizes street racing and illegal takeovers, fueling a dangerous trend not just in Angelino Heights, but wherever the movies have resonated with young drivers.

Action films focus on street racing, heists, spies and family, but residents in some neighborhoods say copycats cause fatal accidents. Here, a car explosion can be seen while filming the new Fast & Furious franchise movie in Italy. Photo: dpa/LaPresse via Zuma Press/Andrea Alfano

As TV cameras documented the protest, fans gathered near film set security checkpoints and crews spread out across the neighborhood, erecting large screens next to Victorian homes.

Just down the street is Bob’s Market, prominently as the family-owned liquor store of Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and now a destination for street runners to take selfies.

“There is a lot of traffic here with fast cars and a lot of young people, taking all the parking and taking pictures,” said Juanita Chaidez in front of the market this Friday morning.

Chaidez, 56, grew up in Angelino Heights and said street takeovers have gotten worse since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although she doesn’t see drivers doing donuts in the street, she says, she can see the smoke rising as drivers burn their tires and brake pads. Sometimes they stop for a photo and then roll down the street at 60 to 70 mph (96 to 112 km/h), Chaidez said.

Other encounters have turned into full-fledged street takeovers, where drivers block the intersection late at night as they burn rubber.

Angelino Heights is no stranger to film shoots. CMA Mad Menmichael jackson Thriller music video and Roman Polanski Chinese district were all filmed in the neighborhood, but none caused negative reactions like fast furious.

Residents say the films’ distributor, Universal Pictures, and the city of Los Angeles have done little to deter copycat drivers racing through their neighborhood. Traffic bollards have been installed at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and East Kensington Road, along with several stop signs, but neighbors are asking for more.

They want the streets to be redesigned to discourage street racing and the film’s producers to make a public service announcement to discourage fans from speeding on residential streets.

“Please film where it is appropriate to film, take care of the community around you and be a partner,” resident Tad Yenawine said at Friday’s protest.

NBCUniversal and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the protest and requests from residents to redevelop streets.

As protesters marched around an intersection, organizer Damian Kevitt of the nonprofit Streets Are for Everyone shouted into a megaphone: “Street racing kills.”

A bystander across the street replied, “No, they don’t.”

Filming in Angelino Heights was scheduled for several days, but protesters said the problem would persist long after the sets broke down.

“It wouldn’t happen as a tourist destination if it wasn’t iconized in the movies,” Kevitt said. “It’s spreading outside the neighborhood. It’s going pretty much everywhere.”

Lori Argumedo said her niece Bethany Holguin was killed in a traffic accident in May 2019. The driver blew through a stop sign while driving another vehicle and crashed into the car in which Holguin was a passenger, Argumedo said. She died at the scene.

“I had to identify my niece’s body on Mother’s Day. I had to tell her six-year-old daughter that her mom will never come home,” Argumedo said on the street after the shooting from Friday’s movie.

“It’s the reality of street racing. Lives are lost. I made her up for her funeral instead of her wedding.” – dpa/tca/Los Angeles Times/Nathan Solis

Previous Top 10 Stories From All Nigerian Newspapers, Saturday 17th September 2022
Next Inman's Top 5 Stories of the Week September 9-15, 2022