Seven people arrested during street racing crackdown last weekend

March 20, 2013 4:58:28 PM PDT
Authorities say they are putting the brakes on illegal street racers using the freeway as a drag strip after they arrested seven people last weekend.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office says the source of it all is a legal event in Sealy that attracts racers. It's when they hit the gas on Harris County freeways that they run into trouble.

The legal racing event takes place at a track in Sealy and is quite popular. But as we found out it's what happens along I-10 late in the evening that's causing problems.

"They just go all night long, continue to go drag racing, come down the feeder road about 100, 150 miles per hour," said resident Brian Larrimer.

Why this stretch of I-10? Participants of a legal racing event called TX2K book hotel rooms at an Omni Hotel along I-10. As seen from a 1320 YouTube video, the hotel's parking garage becomes an unofficial after-hours gathering place for racers. And according to one attendee, the illegal drag racing occurs along I-10 near the hotel.

"I saw about 40 cars clustered all together. They were driving about 120 miles per hour, all of them," said Erin Rice

Sheriff's Office investigators say the racing that goes on is similar to the video, which is among dozens uploaded on YouTube, because racing on the streets is illegal. Harris County cracked down last weekend, arresting seven people for various offenses and issuing around 45 tickets.

"Street racing has been a pretty persistent problem in the west of Harris County for about 15 years," said Capt. Joe O'Leary with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

For nearby residents, they just hope the racers stick to the legal tracks in the future.

"I'm surprised someone hasn't been killed or seriously injured by it," Rice said.

We talked to the hotel and they tell us they only book hotel rooms and are not officially involved in the racing event. But they say they do hire extra security for the garage area over the weekend.

As for those arrested, four people -- Stephen Marx, 30, Antonio Villegas, 22, Jeremy Urdy, 25, and 33-year-old Mark Rodriguez -- are charged with racing on highways; Ryan Linscomb, 34, is charged with reckless driving; Eddie Chavez, 32, is charged with driving under a suspended license and falsification of insurance documents; and Isidro Jose Monroy Castro, 28, is charged with DWI.

Last year, deputies say the same event drew a large crowd to a shopping center along the Katy Freeway and Mason Rd. that got out of control and had to be dispersed by HCSO deputies.

Street racing is a class B misdemeanor, with maximum punishment of a $2,000 fine, 180 days in jail and driver's license suspension. In street racing, passengers can be punished as severely as the driver, and spectators can also be fined.

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