SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The commander of San Francisco PD’s stunt driving response unit is now defending the department’s sideshow prevention strategy. The police response took some criticism after last weekend’s illegal sideshow activity across the city. Many vehicles participating in reckless stunt driving on the Embarcadero recently. SFPD officials say what you didn’t see is even more dangerous.
“A person was hanging out with what appeared to be an AR-15-style rifle,” said SFPD Commander Peter Walsh. “We are not going to send officers. We’re not going to send the public in there to try to stop a moving car potentially with a rifle.”
Sideshow participants armed with guns are one of the major challenges for law enforcement when responding to these events after they have started, according to Walsh.
“And I want to be really clear,” he said. “It is extremely dangerous to the participants, to the spectators and clearly to the public at large.”
In the bystander’s video you hear a resident frustrated by what appears to be SFPD officers allowing the sideshow to take place instead of moving in and breaking it up.
“The cops were there for 20 minutes and did nothing,” someone can be heard saying.
Commander Walsh says stunt-driving participants and spectators on the Embarcadero drove to other locations and that is where SFPD officers made their move.
“The best is to flush them out,” Walsh said. “Block their next area, which I think we did successfully this weekend on two or three other areas throughout the city.”
The Bay Bridge was the next sideshow location that night. SFPD’s stunt driving response unit alerted Oakland police about the possibility of an AR-15 being inside one of the vehicles. Investigators say it turned out to be fake.
“It had all of the fake orange caps and things taken off, but to the naked eye that looks like an AR-15-style rifle. That car is now impounded by Oakland,” said Walsh.
Although in video after video, it may appear that sideshow participants are taking over, roadways, bridges and intersections without any repercussions from police, Walsh says that is not the case.
“We are taking action. We are doing what we can when we have these events,” he said. “Our main thing is the safety of the public. If we can disperse the event, as opposed to just locking it down, and then having other cars that got away somewhere else, and we’re tied up, that’s kind of been our philosophy.”
SFPD officials say 18 vehicles have been impounded this year for allegedly participating in sideshows. The minimum cost to retrieve an impounded vehicle is $3,000.
Meanwhile, across the Bay in Oakland, police officials tweeted that they would have additional resources on the street this weekend to step up enforcement on illegal sideshow activity.