Waikato residents want action to stop boy racers
They come by the hundreds in their modified cars, listening to police scanners and scouting for a place to burn some rubber.
But the late-night antics of the throngs of boy racers, or car enthusiasts, and their entourage that cruise Waikato neighbourhoods in convoy doing burnouts and skids have riled residents into vigilante action.
There have been threats, intimidation and reports of molotov cocktails being thrown on rural roads, leaving residents fearful and fed up.
"The situation is escalating," said one Horotiu resident too afraid to be named.
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"There have been incidents of residents confronting the boy racers and vice versa."
One couple were approached in their home last week by a group of boy racers who had been told to move on during a late night meet-up.
"Enough's enough. It could be pretty nasty. Someone is going to get hurt," another resident said.
Police confirmed there had been a recent spike in boy racer complaints in Hamilton and north Waikato, where up to 200 cars were gathering not only on Fridays, but Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights.
Community meetings have already been held in Hampton Downs, where police say skid sessions at the Springhill junction are wreaking havoc and keeping residents awake.
"We've had ongoing complaints from local residents and commercial operators up there, such as Hampton Downs motorsport park and Gull service station," said Police Highway Patrol supervisor Sergeant Steve Jones, who ran Friday night's sting targeting illegal street racers.
"There's been damage to the road surface, litter and rubbish and general disorder, anti-social behaviour and poor driving."
In rural Horotiu and Te Kowhai, residents say there had been abuse, intimidation and vandalised property.
"They're bulletproof when there's a whole lot of them," said another unnamed resident, who also feared retaliation.
"We're all fed up with the noise, mess, not just the rubber, the glass issues, vandalism, graffiti, signs being pulled down."
A security gate installed by Waikato District Council was chained to cars and torn down and a tagged sign on the concrete barrier reads "f... you".
He said taxi drivers ferrying residents home had been forced to take the long route - that's if they didn't refuse to go down the road at all.
"We have older residents who are intimidated when they come home in the evenings."
Rubber and oil stains from skids and burnouts left road markings hardly recognisable, the resident added, and the neighbourhood had been left with the daily clean-up.
"We're just trying to keep everything clean and tidy. We just don't want the hassle."
When Stuff visited one hot spot - Onion Road - at 11.30 on Friday night, hundreds of cars were parked along the edges of the highway.
Hoards of young people milled around modified cars.
It's a prime spot for the racer fraternity, offering ample street lighting and multiple exit routes to flee police.
"When you get hundreds of people standing in the middle of the road, often they are wearing dark clothing, some are intoxicated and prone to unpredictable and erratic behaviour, and meanwhile we have the public and commercial operators trying to go about their daily business," Jones said.
"Young people like congregating and being social, they like talking about their vehicles, which we don't have a problem with, as long as they do it safely."
'GIVE US A SKID PAD'
Car enthusiast Tristan Jago, 18, was among the 200 or more car enthusiasts out for a night of burnouts at Onion Road on Friday night.
He'd had his licence taken off him and his car green stickered a few weeks ago.
He also recently copped $1000 worth of fines, but said that wouldn't stop him doing skids.
"They'll be burnouts, don't you worry. There's been popped tyres - it's just about timing."
Paying to enter burnout competitions is too expensive, he said, so he and his mates look for isolated spots with few residents.
"If they give us a spot out in the country - problem solved. But we don't have a spot to do it, so we have to come out here where there are no houses and it's not heavily trafficked.
"If we had a legal spot to do it - skids all day, mate."
Constable Dave Rogers, who educates officers about illegal modifications in vehicles, said many street racers came with "burn cars" fitted specific engines, screamer pipes and tyres for drifting.
Some had warranted modifications, but illegal modifications and the way powerful vehicles were driven pose real dangers, he said.
"At the top end there's death - at the lower end, you have guys who lose control and crash into other cars or cause damage to the road and property.
"From what I can see, a lot of the problem is the spectators drinking alcohol - they're cheering on those doing the silly stuff."
He said police regularly run illegal street-racing operations, stopping cars and stickering or impounding them for illegal modifications and licence breaches.
"We know the locations they are using and try to manage it with our resources, but it's quite tricky to police. We really need to catch them in the act to remove their vehicle."
Onion Road area residents have organised a meeting for this Sunday and say they want more action from police and council.
Waikato District Councillor Noel Smith said he had been informed of complaints and would be attending the meeting.
"As a resident, I empathise with what's going on there. I understand residents are intimidated when you get 100 cars there on a Friday night."
He visited the Onion Road site last week with the council's roading manager.
"Council staff have no ability in law to stop people on a road - we can put signs on roads and lines on roads and we can make roads, but we can't actually physically stop a vehicle acting inappropriately on a road.
"Someone needs to work out a plan, but I'm a little skeptical it may move the problem to somewhere else."
Anyone concerned about illegal driving should record specific information like the time, date and registration numbers so police could act on the complaint.
A public meeting is being held at the intersection of Holmes and Onion Roads, Horotiu, at 2pm on Sunday, July 23.