Amid ongoing I-TEAM investigation, Sheriff’s Office addresses car club gatherings in Jacksonville

Amid an ongoing News4JAX I-TEAM investigation into car groups taking over large parking lots, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is speaking out.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Amid an ongoing News4JAX I-TEAM investigation into car groups taking over large parking lots, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is speaking out.

The Sheriff’s Office on Thursday released a statement regarding car and motorcycle clubs:

“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is aware of the recent increase in car and motorcycle groups gathering in parking lots of local businesses and on our roadways. It has also been recognized that some of the participants are creating dangerous situations for not only themselves but also for the citizens around them.

“Due to the potential dangers caused by some of these individuals, JSO takes these events very seriously and will not tolerate this type of behavior in our city. We are collaborating with other state and local partners, and have implemented a proactive solution which incorporates both education and enforcement strategies to address these issues.

“As always, we would ask citizens to contact us at 904-630-0500, or 911, if they observe these types of large gatherings or other dangerous driving patterns. If you have video of incidents depicting potentially dangerous or criminal driving occurring, it may be submitted to the sheriff’s office via email at JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.”

Recently, we spoke with James Brown, a former JSO detective, who says police have to be careful in these situations.

“There’s always a liability because if that person’s trying to get away you have to weigh the act of apprehension versus the amount of damage that could be caused,” he said.

For months, the I-TEAM has reported on car meetups that have peppered the city, along with street racing that in some cases had led to crashes. In one incident last month, according to police, two motorcyclists were killed while doing stunts together on the Northside.

Several of the complaints raised over car meetups in Jacksonville have been about large groups of drivers meeting up in private parking lots and doing things like “doughnuts,” which damage the lots. In one case, a property manager told the I-TEAM that it would cost between $60,000 and $70,000 to fix the damage to his lot. With the street racing, there have been concerns over safety and noise brought up.

Earlier this week, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also addressed car club gatherings.

“No, we don’t accept living with it. What we need people to do is we need people to report it so we can get police officers out there and prevent it from happening,” Curry said.

Car clubs have spoken out following the I-TEAM reports, with many saying videos of the dangerous antics are giving the car community in Jacksonville a bad name.

In the meantime, Florida lawmakers have moved forward with making certain types of car meetups and street races illegal. The state Legislature passed House Bill 399 to crack down on anyone who is involved in what are called parking lot takeovers or street racing and crack down on people who go out to watch. It has yet to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but if it is, it would take effect in October and would allow law enforcement to cite anyone doing stunts or street racing in ways that are not currently listed as illegal.

The legislation would also prohibit the filming of this type of driving and promoting of it on social media. Passengers in these vehicles could also be cited. The legislation includes a scaling citation that gets worse every time someone is cited.

The first offense could be punishable by a $500 to $1,000 fine and a year’s suspension of your driver’s license. The fines and suspensions would increase for every subsequent violation.

I-TEAM REPORTS: Doughnuts & street racing: Late night reckless drivers a nuisance for downtown residents | Manager says street racers have caused $60K in damage doing donuts in strip mall parking lot | Complaints continue over car groups driving erratically in vacant parking lots | Local car group speaks following street takeover complaints | Councilman’s message to car clubs: Get off public property or buy your own place | Video appears to show police cruiser peeling out in Jacksonville parking lot | Witness says police cruiser seen in video was trying to disperse crowd gathered for car club meetup | Residents say drivers are turning this area of Jacksonville into a weekend racetrack | Street racing concerns surface in another area of Jacksonville | 2 street racing crashes in 2 weeks spark more safety concerns | Instagram video shows ambulance doing doughnuts in parking lot | Car clubs speak out against others performing dangerous stunts, causing property damage | Florida lawmakers crack down on parking lot takeovers, street racing | Video shows car club meet-up in same area where 17-year-old was shot | Jacksonville Mayor Curry addresses car club gatherings around the city | New video shows cars taking over parking lot on the Southside


About the Authors:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.