Street Takeovers in L.A. Are Growing More Frequent and More Violent

The street takeovers are too big to police and in the last 8 months at least 6 people have died ”during or near” the gatherings

There’s no doubt about it—street takeovers are the tribal rituals of the new Saturday night in Los Angeles. Once you’ve gotten the go-ahead on the location, often by Instagram, spectators and cars block an intersection around midnight and the gathering horde watches the vehicular stunt show at the center of the hastily-crafted arena.

The takeovers have been part of the L.A. landscape for years, as the Los Angeles Times reports, but the evolving phenomenon has recently devolved into scenes in which shootings, serious injuries and deaths take center stage.

“In the last eight months, at least six people have died during or near street takeovers,” according to the Times.

  • Two men were killed by gunshot in a car parked near a takeover in Compton in November.
  • Two women were killed in a crash near an earlier Compton takeover event in June.
  • A man in his 20s was killed by gunfire at a takeover in the Vermont Vista neighborhood in July
  • A teenage boy was shot to death during a takeover in Willowbrook on August 14.

“It’s a scene of lawlessness,” California Highway Patrol Lt. Joe Zagorski said. “It’s a borderline riot.”

These seemingly spontaneous events are arranged through posts on social media, especially Instagram. An invite hiding in a comment thread under a vaguely-worded post is an obvious announcement to those who know what to look for.

Now, the Los Angeles city attorney’s office is deliberating whether to enact penalties and fines against those who share these types of invitations online.

Takeovers have risen in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic, when city streets were empty of other drivers during lockdowns. In the first six months of 2021, there were 500 reported takeovers, or “sideshows,” in the city of Los Angeles, according to data from the Los Angeles Police Department. During the same time this year, the LAPD has reported 705 takeovers.

“It’s like a warzone,” former Compton Councilwoman Barbara Calhoun told the Times.

For police, it’s more like No Man’s Land, because the crowds that converge on takeovers are too big for cops to contend with, CHP officials say.

“If you really have two patrol cars out there, you can’t do anything with 200 other cars on the runway,” L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Michael Downing told the Times. “We’ve had officers attacked. We’ve had patrol cars crashed into. We’ve had people get run over while cars are leaving… Our hands are tied by our limited resources, and we can’t really deal with the crowds.”

The street takeover participants, who seem to be mostly young people looking for something to do, defend their dangerous pastime.

“It’s something to look forward to,” 21-year-old Dora told the Times. “We’re not bothering anyone.”

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