NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro police say a bill that has been moving slowly through the Tennessee General Assembly could help them fight street racers. This comes following a Clarksville man’s death this week after being hit by a car going more than 100 mph.
“[Jake] Barnhardt was a veteran and a special combat medic,” said Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) on the House floor Thursday. “He leaves behind his partner and four children, can we please give him a moment of silence?”
The moment of silence for a lost constituent was followed by bipartisan calls from lawmakers to take action to curb street racing in the state.
“Unfortunately, this is a very stark reminder of the duties we have as a government body to keep people safe,” said Rep. John Gillespie (R-Memphis).
Gillespie is sponsoring a bill that would allow law enforcement to take cars used in street racing, but it hasn’t been debated yet in the House or the Senate.
“It’s gotten out of control. It affects every single one of our districts,” said Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville).
When asked about the difficulty of catching and arresting street racers, Lt. Michael Gilliland with the MNPD Traffic Operations Section said impounding cars would be a good deterrent because cars and tires can be expensive.
“They are going to run out of money eventually and they will stop doing the activity, they can’t fiscally keep that up,” Gilliland said. “So, you hit them in the pockets, because obviously the laws the state legislature and the city have enacted they don’t care anything about that.”
Gilliland said street racing gatherings can range from a few dozen people to about a thousand and racers’ ages and background can vary widely.
He explained that with so many people gathering, his team needs to be strategic about pursuits and arrests.
“It’s a balance. You have to weigh the immediate need to apprehend one of these individuals with the safety of the general public,” he explained. “So, rather than blindly running these initiatives, we are trying to base it on intel we have gathered or trends we are seeing in other spaces.”
Although in the short term, he said his team does have another tool at their disposal.
Gilliland said he recently spoke with the District Attorney about charging not only the drivers but the onlookers with rioting if there is probable cause or trespassing if the property is clearly marked.