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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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It is difficult not to hear the modified mufflers and the sounds of overpowered engines racing down Albuquerque’s streets once the sun goes down, especially if it’s a Sunday night. Drag racing, always a popular—albeit dangerous and illegal—pastime, has gained considerable attention in the last few months. According to Albuquerque Police Dept. Sergeant Cody Robinson, one of the top complaints they receive is related to drag racing. “It seems like we’re getting a lot of complaints really late at night,” Robinson said. Since March 1, Robinson said APD has issued 1,472 speeding citations, 32 citations for vehicle nuisance and spectating of drag races and 52 citations for a modified exhaust (that’s what makes so much noise).

While drag racing in Albuquerque may not be new, it’s becoming deadly. On Sunday, May 23, a crash that killed Rev. Graham Golden, a local priest, was caused by what was reportedly a drag race. Rev. Graham Golden and Brother Lorenzo Romero were struck by a vehicle in the South Valley off of Coors Blvd. Romero was injured but is expected to recover. The driver who crashed into the vehicle is expected to be charged with vehicular homicide.

To combat drag racing in Albuquerque, APD and New Mexico State Police have teamed up to locate and track areas that see a high activity of drag racers. APD utilizes NMSP’s air resources to locate large gatherings of cars and then APD is able to set up checkpoints and roadblocks around the area. The partnership has helped in identifying and combating areas of high racing activity. “Some of the hot spots are definitely in the Downtown area. Broadway and Odelia. Balloon Fiesta Park. The businesses are all closed and there’s a lot of straightaways,” Robinson said.

To curb racing in these areas, both APD and State Police have undertaken various operations to apply pressure to racers, particularly in the Downtown area. “We just implemented a 60-day operation for Downtown on Fridays and Saturday nights. We have 4-6 officers that are specifically going to be looking for racers,” he said. Other areas of the city will also have an increase in police presence. 

APD is also creating a new task force whose sole task is to focus solely on drag racing, vehicle nuisance and other related areas. The force will be composed of four officers and one sergeant. This new force will also have shifts that will align times of high racing activity, specifically late nights and weekends. “We’re creating a true swing shift squad for racing, loud exhaust, and vehicle nuisance,” Robinson said. 

State Police have also been active in combating street racing. In March two operations produced 200 citations for street racing and spectating. The operations were conducted near Balloon Fiesta Park and the intersection of Office Blvd. and Singer Blvd. The areas where the operations happened were chosen based on complaints by residents and observations of officers. 

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