SFPD tracking down participants from weekend Castro sideshow

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Monday March 18, 2024
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Tire marks at Castro and Market streets March 17 show telltale signs of a sideshow, which San Francisco police are investigating. Photo: John Ferrannini<br>
Tire marks at Castro and Market streets March 17 show telltale signs of a sideshow, which San Francisco police are investigating. Photo: John Ferrannini

The San Francisco Police Department is tracking down participants in a sideshow that took place at the intersection of Castro and Market streets early Sunday.

Police Chief William Scott told the Bay Area Reporter that "we did capture pictures of [license] plates and will follow up."

"If we can legally seize the vehicles, we will seize the vehicles," he said.

A sideshow is an illegal demonstration of auto stunts, sometimes held on freeways, at intersections, or on vacant lots. Sideshows originated in the Bay Area, and over the years municipalities have passed harsher penalties for participating — last year, for example, Oakland's city council made it a misdemeanor to organize, facilitate, or promote a sideshow, which can carry up to six months in county jail and a $5,000 fine. In San Jose, spectating at a sideshow can be punished with six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Drivers in sideshows can have their vehicles impounded.

The Castro sideshow was at about 12:30 a.m. March 17. When asked about it, Officer Paulina Henderson, a public information officer with SFPD, stated that about a half-hour earlier police responded to an "active exhibition of stunt driving" at 13th Street and South Van Ness Avenue.

"When officers arrived on scene, they observed vehicles engaged in stunt driving and spectators near the intersection," Henderson stated. "When additional officers arrived on scene, the vehicles and spectators began fleeing from the scene. At this time there are no arrests from this incident."

Castro resident Jason Yuen took cellphone photos of the sideshow early Sunday morning. Photo: Jason Yuen  

Jason Yuen, who lives in the Castro, told the B.A.R. that "they were there for half an hour and SFPD didn't arrive until 20 minutes after everyone left."

"That was some hetero energy and they scared my sleeping puppy," he added.

Scott said that the police broke up the sideshow.

"We have a unit — not a dedicated unit, but a leadership team — that brings in resources from anywhere in the city," he said. "They were able to break it up."

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro LGBTQ neighborhood on the Board of Supervisors, said, "This is part of what we were hoping Prop E would be very helpful with."

Proposition E, which voters approved earlier this month, will allow for greater use of drones and other surveillance measures in following criminal suspects as an alternative to vehicle chases. The ballot measure would also change rules around police pursuits.

"I'm hopeful drone and other technology will allow us to respond more effectively," Mandelman said, adding that the event was "super distressing to the public in the area."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the SFPD at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the message with SFPD. You may remain anonymous.

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