By Andrea Flores

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver police are cracking down on street racing around the city. Over the weekend, a driver died after losing control while speeding and crashed into a tree near Sloan’s Lake. DPD says street racing may have been a factor.

“It’s a very dangerous activity,” said DPD Division Chief of Patrol Ron Thomas. “Where we’re primarily seeing this is actually on the highways, and then open stretches of road.”

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Thomas says lighter traffic during the pandemic has amplified the issue. In 2020, more than 100 people were arrested for illegal street racing. Last summer, Denver Police restricted lanes around Federal Boulevard to combat the issue in the area.

Now, racers are finding other parts of town to put the pedal to the metal.

“Some of the road closures that we have been doing for safety measures, like around Federal Boulevard for instance, has caused people to search elsewhere to cruise and to drag race,” said Thomas. “Certainly, the pandemic has kept people from being able to do certain things, bars are closed, some of the other activities have been shut down, so this is kind of what filled that void for a lot of people.”

Last month, street racing forced traffic to a complete stop on I-225 in Aurora. Earlier this month, pedestrian Jessica Allen was killed by a car racing near 18th and Lawrence in downtown Denver.

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“Usually, it’s something we deal with in the summer months, and this year, we started to see it much earlier in the season than we have typically seen it,” Thomas said.

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Residents can report illegal street racing online. They can also call (720) 913-2000.

Dozens of law enforcement agencies are working together to put the brakes on the illegal sport.

“We’re generally aware of when these activities occur, and so certainly, we’re making sure there our helicopters are available to provide the coverage from above, and we’ve dedicated officers in each district to be responsible for responding to cruising and street raising events throughout the city,” Thomas said.

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DPD is working with Colorado State Patrol to encourage safer alternatives to street racing with events like “Take it to the Track” at Bandimere Speedway. It happens every Wednesday and allows drivers to race in a safe and controlled environment.

Andrea Flores