HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In an effort to combat illegal street racing and takeovers across Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott ceremoniously signed two bills into law Wednesday. The new laws aim to give police and prosecutors more tools to go after violators and deter them from reoffending.
Officials said the issue is becoming more prevalent and concerning for big cities like Houston, Austin, and Dallas. They emphasize that illegal street racing and takeovers create dangerous situations, not just for the people involved but also for those who are nearby.
In April 2022, a person was hit and killed during a police chase that started during a street takeover in northwest Houston. Investigators said when Houston police broke up the group, Damian West allegedly took off speeding, ran a red light, and hit five different cars, killing an innocent driver.
State and local leaders believe one of the biggest deterrents for potential offenders is the possibility of losing their cars.
"We know that your cars are important to you, for those folks who engage in that out there. We know that when we take your cars, it's sometimes even more painful than going to jail," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said during a March 3 press conference.
That's why Abbott says he fully supports the two bills he signed into law. HB 1442 allows police to seize cars used in reckless driving and highway racing. HB 2889 allows police to immediately impound the cars of anyone who is charged with either of these crimes.
"It puts surrounding drivers and pedestrians at substantial risk," Abbott said Wednesday. "Both of these laws will safeguard Texas from dangerous and illegal street racing. Texas is a law and order state. As long as I am governor, we will back the blue, protect our citizens, and ensure that law enforcement has the tools they need to secure our streets."
Seizing vehicles is something law enforcement agencies in Harris County were already doing.
In March, the Harris County District Attorney's office said they handled 1,000 street racing cases in 2022, resulting in 200 cars being seized.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office reported making 400 street racing-related arrests last year that resulted in reclaiming 17 stolen cars.
State and local officials hope this measure will help deter potential offenders from breaking the law and putting other people's lives in danger.
HB 2899 is already in effect. HB 1442 will go into effect on Sep. 1.