By Kevin Collison
A raucous stunt-driving session that closed one of downtown’s most visible intersections over the weekend is the latest outrage in what’s been a loud, chaotic year for residents in the urban core.
The high-profile, donut-spinning incident Sunday night at 13th and Grand by the T-Mobile Center was part of a pattern in which reckless drivers and motorcyclists have disrupted major city streets from the Plaza to the River Market for many months without apparent consequences.
“I’m concerned about my safety, not only being struck but the noise is incredibly disruptive,” said David Johnson, a downtown resident.
“I’m also surprised about the lack of response.
“The duration of that (13th and Grand) was 20 minutes. We’ve also seen it pop up at the intersections of Baltimore and Southwest Boulevard and Broadway and Southwest Boulevard.”
A video of the Sunday night incident posted on Twitter can be seen here.
The most brazen incident, Johnson said, apparently was on the Kit Bond Bridge, which carries Interstate 29 and 35 traffic over the Missouri River.
“There were donuts in the middle of it, that blows my mind,” he said. “It meant collaborators halted interstate traffic in the middle of the Bond Bridge.”
Johnson said he’s surprised that police, and in the situation of the Bond Bridge, state police, have not actively tried to stop what’s been an ongoing problem.
Kansas City police eventually responded to the incident at 13th and Grand, but made no arrests. The intersection is four blocks from KCPD headquarters at 12th and Oak.
In a statement, Sgt. Jake Becchina of the Kansas City Police Department said police have received calls about motorists performing similar maneuvers elsewhere throughout the city. The burnouts leave skid marks and tire tracks on the roadway.
“We always welcome people to call 911 to report this and we will take whatever enforcement action that is practical,” he said.
“We ask residents to call us if they see this occurring, we can try to disperse the crowd peacefully, drivers doing this could be cited for careless driving at a minimum, and much worse if someone was hurt as a result of it.
“Typically when large groups gather and commit traffic offenses we do not intercede in that If there is a physical danger to someone we will respond to that. When cars flee from police we do not pursue for nonviolent offenses.”
Matt Staub, another downtown resident, described the Sunday night incident as not being out of the ordinary for what’s been a miserable year.
“Sunday got more notice than usual, but it’s been happening throughout the pandemic,” he said. “When your windows are open, there’s been a constant screeching on any night.
“The thing is, this is the city’s most populous neighborhood and for the police to allow it become a playground, it’s frustrating.
“There’s a crazy level of impunity for drivers to do whatever they want.”
Sean O’Byrne, vice president of the Downtown Council, said its custodial and security staff of ‘Ambassadors’ have been asked to intervene when they see incidents happening. He added the noisy displays have been occurring since last summer.
“We’ve sent our guys to try to break it up,” he said. “We think it’s deplorable and somebody is going to wind up getting hurt.”
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