JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Halting the freeway for street racing, videos uploaded over the weekend show cars blocking traffic and doing donuts on I-295 on the west side of Jacksonville.
This video is now helping the police in their investigation and officers are telling News4JAX that they will be arresting some of the drivers soon.
As of Thursday afternoon, a video showing the “highway takeover” had been viewed more than 117,000 times on Facebook.
The video shows cars speeding by with passengers hanging out of the window recording video. Others run a blockade on the highway. There is a line of traffic stopped with motorists honking their horns in anger.
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It happened around 2 a.m. Saturday on I-295 near the Commonwealth Avenue exit.
“When I saw the video, I realized they actually shut down an entire freeway,” said Jaime Eason, chief patrol and enforcement officer for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. “And I think it’s frustrating about that is that they don’t know what’s on the highway. They don’t know if anyone is trying to go to the hospital. They don’t know if anyone is trying to get home after a 15 hour shift.
Eason led the agency’s charge against street racing, a persistent problem across the city. JSO officers have now identified many from the weekend takeover.
“[Participants] like to post, and if they don’t post, then people post for them,” she said. “And I’ll be honest with you, a lot of our investigative leads come from the public, it doesn’t come from the police. There are a lot of people who are just frustrated with it. Even in automotive groups that do it legally, they don’t want that name associated with them. And they texted or emailed me every day.
Eason said arrests were coming, calling the antics dangerous and daring. She noted that many drivers cover their license plates, but police have other ways to track them down.
New laws in Florida make the penalties tougher.
“Blocking [a highway] is actually now a crime,” she said. “Before, it was a misdemeanor. And it’s actually punishable by 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
News4JAX has contacted the man who posted this recent video. He said he just shared it and was not in the race.
The News4JAX I-TEAM reported an increase in street racing and a crackdown, with dozens of arrests and car seizures, and hundreds of citations. However, the races continue.
“There are a lot of business owners in the city, they saw our early stories and they would like to give those people the opportunity to do it legally,” Eason added. “There are people who have private property that allow those people to go on private property and they can run without causing injury or anything like that to the public.”
In this case, Eason said she didn’t hear about it from 911 calls, but rather from this social media video. She asks anyone who sees this type of activity to report it to the police.
News4JAX has also contacted the Florida Highway Patrol. Staff 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 are hiring additional sources to quell this activity.
Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.
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