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By Lloyd Alaban

San Jose already targets sideshow audiences to combat the illegal gatherings. But an upcoming proposal will go after another group: Those who encourage people to attend sideshows.

The San Jose City Council is expected to approve new legislation Tuesday that will make it illegal to encourage or promote people to show up to a sideshow event. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000, slapped with a maximum of six months in jail or both.

“These events are encouraged usually from one or a just a few people who, through social media, text and phone calls spread the word to others to participate,” reads a city memo.

According to the memo, San Jose police will use different methods, such as scouring social media, to determine who is encouraging people to come to sideshows.

“We will continue to respond to sideshow activity with available resources,” Sergeant Christian Camarillo, spokesperson for the San Jose Police Department, told San José Spotlight. “We will also continue the 30-day impounds, spectator violations and any other applicable local and state laws.”

The discussion follows one the council had on March 30 to stop promoters of sideshows. The council asked the city attorney’s office to draft an ordinance banning promoters through social media, word of mouth and other electronic means.

A sideshow is an illegal gathering of cars in a parking lot or intersection. Drivers perform donuts and other stunts, which attract large crowds that spill into busy intersections, putting the lives of spectators and drivers at risk. Many sideshows take place at night, drawing complaints from neighbors about loud noises and racing cars.

When police arrive at sideshows, racers and spectators flee the site and gather at another location. According to the city, police, fire and ambulance response to sideshows pull resources away from the city’s emergency response teams.

In an effort to prevent the illegal gatherings, San Jose has looked at installing roundabouts in neighborhoods with the most active sideshows such as the Tully Road and Ruby Avenue intersection in the Evergreen neighborhood. The city closed down Roosevelt Park ahead of Cinco de Mayo in anticipation of sideshows to celebrate last month’s holiday.

High-speed races are another problem the city hopes to solve with the proposal. Just two weeks ago, a 19-year-old man died after crashing into a tree on Capitol Expressway in South San Jose, resulting in the city’s 24th traffic-related death this year.

The city added another traffic death over the weekend, bringing the total to 25.

“We’ve seen too many tragedies in our city,” Councilmember Matt Mahan, whose district includes South San Jose, told San José Spotlight. “My message to street racers is that it isn’t worth losing your life. These new measures help reinforce that point.”

Sideshows originated in Oakland in the 1980s as informal gatherings for people to show off their cars. In recent times, spectators have brought alcohol, drugs and firearms to sideshows.

San Jose already has a law in place that makes it illegal to be a sideshow spectator. The crime is a misdemeanor that can lead up to $1,000 fines. Tuesday’s proposal will make it illegal to encourage or help people gather at sideshows and street racing events.

According to data the San Jose Police Department presented to the council in March, 43% of people who received citations for watching sideshows or reckless driving are from San Jose, while the majority—57%—are from 44 other cities.

“The proposed ordinance will provide the San Jose Police Department with an additional tool to discourage those encouraging street racing and sideshow events in San Jose,” reads the memo.

To report a sideshow, dial the SJPD’s non-emergency line at 408-277-8900 or click here.

The San Jose City Council meets Tuesday at 11 a.m. For more information on how to watch and participate in the meeting, click here.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

The post San Jose considers penalties for encouraging sideshow spectators appeared first on San José Spotlight.

This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.

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