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Boy racers, residents draw battle lines

Published: 11:09PM Sunday August 20, 2006 Source: Sunday

Boy and girl racers - we have all seen them and we have all heard of them.

But are they a menace and a danger on the street?

In Christchurch the police are cracking down hard.

Kids and cars - boy racers - every weekend dozens of them turn out shattering the tranquility of Christchurch's manicured streets with their big bore exhausts, boom boxes and shiny rims.

The good citizens of the garden city have had enough. And the kids? Well they just cannot get enough. It is a collision waiting to happen.

Richard Raymond, a lawyer in town, has set up his own website about the noise. He says enough is enough.

"These guys are hooning up and down our streets for hours, and all hours of the day and night, particularly at night, creating noise. And they just don't give a stuff.

"We're not killjoys. Look I was young once, still am I think. You know there's plenty of things that people can do which don't include strapping some empty stainless steel pipe to your car, pumping out noise needlessly around the suburbs. That is just stupid," says Raymond.

There is a war going on over the young racers and Operation Mosquito is the latest campaign. More than 60 police, Land Transport staff and court bailiffs are preparing to pounce.

At New Brighton Beach a convoy is massing.

It is a game that plays out most Friday and Saturday nights. The participants text each other and listen-up on police scanners. There is a designated driver who is sober.

The plan is to head out of town to the country roads of Templeton where the TVs are already off and just about everyone is tucked up in bed. 

John McKim is an avid radio ham and one very aggrieved local resident. He reckons the racers are a menace when they assemble for their late night meets. 

McKim has had first-hand experience.

"Well basically we're driving down the road midnight and we turn into Haskets Road here, and I'd estimate there could be between 60 or 80 cars. They were throwing flares out on the road, and we are starting to get a fairly large group of people surrounding the car."

Locals are fighting back, placing z-nails, screws, anything that might puncture the kids' tyres.

But there is nothing new about any of this.

There were similar scenes in Christchurch almost 20 years ago - blokes have been burning it up for generations.

"Everyone's buying the V8's now ...used to cost about $800 but now you get 'em for $500. More speed, more power, more smoke ups," one enthusiast says.

And just like the mullets of the 1980s, today's car crazy kids also define themselves by their wheels.

One boys says he paid $10,000 for his car.

"Gotta have it though mate, go out, pull the chicks - be rude not to," he says.

These days we call them boy racers and they love the notoriety. There is even boy racer legislation just for them.

Sure, they are in your face, but for the most part they are street legal. They can buy their ride, already pimped, straight off the the lot, but it also buys unwelcome attention.

"If you're performing like some road rodent all over the place you can expect to be stopped and spoken to by us. I mean at the end of the day a lot of these people carry a big sign saying 'pick me'," says Senior Sergeant Trevor Pullen.

Is a kid with a big bore muffler and smart looking rims immediately going to attract attention in Christchurch?

"If that particular vehicle is making a lot of noise, yes it will," Pullen says.

And noise is something they are very sensitive about in Christchurch - the city accounts for some 40% of noise policing nationwide .

Penny Clark is a manager at one of the city's prestigious central hotels. She reckons it has got much worse in the last five years.

"It certainly affects business across the board," she says. "It's the fact that it's deadly quiet and then 'boom'.

"You have the boom box and the exhaust pipe and then it goes away again. And you're falling asleep and then it comes again."

She doesn't think it is confined to Christchurch.

If you had the impression boy racers are turning our roads into carnage, that they are seriously endangering the rest of us with their wild driving, you would be dead wrong.

"Statistics-wise we know that 2.5%, 2% of all crashes nationwide are attributed to boy racer activity or people involved in illegal street racing," says Pullen.

Surely 2.5% is barely a blip.

But Pullen says they are up there when it comes to nuisance value and associated disorder.

So what it comes down to is noise and plenty of it.

See the related Sunday video for the full story...