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Committee approves changes to Jackson street racing ordinance, clearing way for full council to adopt it

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 2:58 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - For two hours, members of the Jackson City Council’s Law Enforcement Ad Hoc Committee hammered out changes to an ordinance that aims to keep major thoroughfares from turning into illegal drag strips and cleared the way for the new law to go before the full council Tuesday.

Many of the changes came from guidance provided by City Attorney, Monica Allen.

Allen didn’t mince words during Tuesday’s meeting, telling members that certain aspects of the city’s draft ordinance to thwart illegal racing and reckless driving could be challenged in the courts.

For example, some fines in the proposed ordinance were higher than what’s allowed by state law. Committee members adjusted accordingly and discussed the ramifications.

The biggest adjustment came from something Committee Chair Aaron Banks said he vowed to do for weeks: tow an offender’s vehicle after the first offense.

“If we’re saying that it’s mandatory that we are going to tow your car and you’re not going to get a hearing, then that’s a violation of that person’s due process,” Allen said.

Banks disagreed initially, saying he’d seen other major cities mandate towing vehicles in response to reckless driving.

“I see an example of what happened in Detroit, and it went to the court but it was federally upheld in that instance, when it came to the towing, because it talks about over 1,000 vehicles being towed, and towing can be used as a city ordinance to stop crime,” Banks said. “But I understand the need to be careful because, on our end, it’s not clearly defined.”

Banks compromised, requiring vehicles to be towed only when they’re illegally operated on city streets - like four-wheelers - and had the language changed to reflect that someone’s vehicle “may” be towed.

He and other council members want the city attorney’s office to request an Attorney General opinion on the issue. Allen told council members reckless driving wasn’t even defined by state law, so they defined it during the meeting.

They also added a few things, too.

“There was not currently in the law anything that dealt with the obstruction or the blocking of traffic on city streets, city roads, state and federal highways,” Banks said.

The Ward 6 councilman said he also wants to jumpstart talks to bring red light cameras back.

Though currently prohibited by state law, Banks and other council members believe lawmakers can work with them to make it happen.

“We can’t just think of it in in reverse and talk about who’s getting caught, who’s getting tickets. We have to think about it in forward motion as prevention,” Banks said.

Council members also want state lawmakers to help strengthen the existing statutes on the books to give cities like Jackson greater flexibility in penalties.

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