New Texas street racing law still gaining traction in the Houston area

Houston PD, Harris County District Attorney leading pack in local agencies “taking cars”

HOUSTON – As of Sept. 1, two new Texas laws are in effect, designed to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to impound and seize vehicles involved in street racing and parking lot takeovers.

But in reality, KPRC 2 Investigates has found the laws have not, for the most part, been pressed into service, yet.

“It takes time. Law enforcement, we’re not robots. We’re like everyone else. We have to read and learn on how to utilize that lot the right way because we don’t want to make a mistake,” Fort Bend County Sheriff, Eric Fagan, said.

In August, Gov. Greg Abbott signed two laws to help combat street racing.

The legislation House Bill 1442 and House Bill 2899 enhance the penalties for illegal street racing and provide law enforcement and prosecutors additional tools to address these crimes.

There is typically a learning and uptake curve for the dozens of law enforcement agencies that operate in the Houston area. Typically, new laws are introduced to officers and deputies as a part of continuing education classes, required to hold a peace officer’s license.

Racing Impound/Seizure Laws are gaining steam across U.S.

Other cities, outside of Texas, have made significant use of similar new laws and local ordinances.

Louisville, Kentucky’s ordinance has been in place since Oct. 2022.

The city of about 625,000 adopted an ordinance very similar to the new provisions in the new Texas laws.

“LMPD has seized over 50 vehicles and made 35 arrests,” Public Information Officer for the Louisville Metro Police Department Dwight Mitchell said via email.

The Louisville Metro Police even produced a YouTube video to tout the success of their new ordinance.

Chicago also has a similar local provision that enables a legal mechanism to impound and seize vehicles more quickly and efficiently. The local law was adopted in July 2022. Chicago Police were unable to provide the number of vehicles impounded and/or seized under the new law.

Three months in, new laws still finding footing among local agencies

Back home, the Houston Police Department appears to lead the league in pressing the new Texas laws into use.

Police Chief Troy Finner said the new Texas law had been used by his office 19 times, so far. It is unclear if he was referring to “street racing” impoundments or permanent seizures.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has attempted to permanently seize many hundreds of vehicles, related to reckless driving, street racing, and parking lot takeovers over the last two and half years.

The Harris County D.A. reports 73 forfeiture proceedings in the last year.

KPRC 2 Investigates could find no Harris County Constable who had yet used the provisions.

“We haven’t had to seize any vehicles because since then they’ve pretty much left our precinct,” Pct. 2 Constable, Jerry Garcia, said.

Garcia, who pro-actively, monitors parking lot takeover and street racing hot spots, has had success in the past with aggressive patrols and securing trespass affidavits from local businesses to run off trouble.

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