JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shutting down the highway for street racing, videos posted online over the weekend show cars blocking traffic and doing donuts on I-295 on Jacksonville’s westside.
This video is now helping police with their investigation and officers tell News4JAX they’ll soon be arresting some of the drivers.
As of Thursday afternoon, a video showing the “highway takeover” had more than 117,000 views on Facebook.
The video shows cars spinning out with passengers hanging out of the window recording video. Others perform a blockade on the highway. There’s a line of traffic stopped with some motorists honking their horns in anger.
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It happened around 2 a.m. Saturday on I-295 near the exit to Commonwealth Avenue.
“When I saw the video, I realized that they actually shut down an entire highway,” Jaime Eason, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s Chief of Patrol and Enforcement, said. “And I think it’s frustrating about that is they don’t know what’s on the highway. They don’t know if somebody’s trying to go to the hospital. They don’t know if somebody’s trying to get home after a 15-hour shift.”
Eason has been leading the agency’s charge against street racing, a persistent problem throughout the city. JSO officers have now identified many from the weekend takeover.
“[Participants] like to post, and if they don’t post, then people are posting for them,” she said. “And I’ll be honest with you a lot of our investigative leads are coming from the public, it’s not coming from police officers. There are a lot of people that are just frustrated with this. Even in the car groups that are doing this lawfully, they don’t want that name associated with them. And they sent me a text or an email every single day.”
Eason said arrests are coming, calling the antics dangerous and audacious. She noted that many drivers cover their license plates, but police have other ways to track them down.
New laws in Florida are making the penalties harsher.
“Blocking [a highway] is actually now a felony,” she said. “It used to be a misdemeanor. And it’s actually chargeable up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.”
News4JAX reached out to the man who posted this recent video. He said he just shared it and isn’t part of the racing.
The News4JAX I-TEAM has been reporting about an increase in street racing and crackdowns, with dozens of arrests and car seizures, and hundreds of citations. However, the races continue.
“There’s a lot of business owners out there in the city, they saw our first stories, and they would like to give these people an opportunity to do this lawfully,” Eason added. “There are people that have private property that allow these people to go on private property and they can race without causing injury or anything like that to the public.”
In this case, Eason said she didn’t hear about this from 911 calls, instead, it was from that video on social media. She’s asking anyone who sees this type of activity to report it to the police.
News4JAX also reached out to the Florida Highway Patrol. Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan said state troopers are also investigating and working with JSO. Both agencies are part of a street racing task force. Bryan said they’re committing extra sources to crack down on this activity.