HOUSTON – A Houston property owner said he’s fed up with the impromptu car shows and reckless drivers taking over the parking lot of his strip center off the Gulf Freeway.
Business owners in the area also said this behavior is costing them customers. They’ve called Houston police for help but say the problem persists. That’s why they called the KPRC 2 Investigates team to step in.
According to property owner Mike Baker, illegal street racers took over the parking lot every Sunday for the last two months.
“I started noticing the cars just congregating and people congregating. And then after a while, they started racing, and running, and doing donuts or wheelies,” Baker said. “The tenants are worried. One, the cars are speeding through here at very high rates of speed. Two, they’re rambunctious, for lack of a better word. They’re not very peaceful; they’re out of control.”
Local businesses in the lot, such as Twin Crab, told KPRC 2 Investigates their customers feel unsafe coming to their business, and the takeover has hurt their monthly revenue.
“We have witnessed person(s) consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel of an automobile performing these dangerous activities while on property,” the owners told us in a statement. “Our customers have expressed that they are in fear for their safety while these’ car shows’ are happening. This has caused Twin Crab significant inconvenience and has resulted in the loss of business.”
Baker claims the Houston Police Department has offered little help. He said he sent multiple videos of these racers to HPD, yet he’s rarely seen an officer come to address the issue.
Frustrated, Baker took matters into his own hands. He’s installed a video surveillance system that alerts officers of a parking lot takeover.
While reviewing the surveillance video taken during June, KPRC 2 Investigates saw an HPD officer respond to two events.
Investigators with the Traffic Crimes Task Force said they’ve been monitoring that location and the group. HPD confirmed they responded to calls on June 11 and June 18.
The area is also patrolled by the Precinct 2 Constable’s Office.
The KPRC 2 Investigates linked Constable Jerry Garcia with Baker and his tenants. He pledged to deal with the problem immediately.
“HPD is so overworked and understaffed, and they’re doing the best they can, but that’s where we come in. We can supplement their patrol,” Constable Garcia told Baker. “We’re not just saying we’re going to look into it. We’re going to be here. I do not want this to happen again. When these things happen, alcohol is involved, drugs are involved, weapons, it’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”
“I just appreciate Channel 2 coming out here and getting the word out,” Baker said.
During the first Sunday of July, his constable deputies were at the parking lot.
Captain Mike Kritzler told us roughly 70 trucks pulled into the parking lot to begin a takeover and were advised they were trespassing. All left without a problem.
“We will continue to address the issues there, and now have trespass affidavits on file from the owner as well as numerous ‘No Trespass’ signs posted throughout that property,” said Capt. Kritzler.
If the issue continues to occur, constable deputies will make arrests.
As HPD continues its investigation, officers ask the public to share any parking lot takeover or street racing information with the Traffic Crimes Task Force.
UPDATE: July 10, 2023
For a second consecutive weekend, deputies from the Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 2 patrolled the parking lot and warded off dozens of vehicles.
No arrests have been made either weekend, but the constable issued a warning to potential scofflaws.
“If they go to another parking lot, we’ll go to another parking lot. We do not want people being nuisances to our businesses,” Constable Jerry Garcia said.