Police agencies address illegal activity at car meetups

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    Photo courtesy of City of Grand Rapids.

    Area police agencies are banding together to address illegal activity at car and motorcycle meetups in the wake of a homicide that took place Sept. 3.

    Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom was joined by Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young, Chief Keith Mankel of the Walker Police Department, and F/Lt. Matt Williams, the post commander for the Michigan State Police’s Grand Rapids post, today in a show of coordination and partnership between area law enforcement agencies to address illegal activity and increasing danger at large-scale car and motorcycle meet-ups.

    “At approximately 1:30 am this past Sunday, 19-year-old Alana Vasquez was tragically shot and killed while attending one of these so-called car meet-ups at Freeman and Hall in the city of Grand Rapids,” said Chief Winstrom. “While this is an extreme example…we want the community to know what can happen at these events.”

    Chief Winstrom reiterated the call for anyone with video, photos, or other information from Sunday night’s event and the shooting that occurred, to come forward to GRPD or anonymously through Silent Observer. “We are not interested in looking backward at lesser crimes that occurred that night. We want to be able to provide answers for Alana’s family and give them some small measure of comfort and closure. People need to come forward with information to help us do that.”

    Chief Winstrom and other leaders made it clear, however, that going forward, law enforcement will be using all the tools at their disposal to hold people accountable and disrupt events where illegal behavior is occurring.

    It is not just a Grand Rapids problem. “Every driver out there can get wrapped up in this,” said Chief Mankel. “You could be driving down the road and the next thing you know, there could be 200 cars around you. There is total disregard for traffic safety…anybody driving on the road is being put at risk.”

    “We’ve had problems in recreational areas after dark, after they are supposed to be closed, people coming in and taking over those,” said Sheriff LaJoye-Young. “A young person who thinks they are coming to a car race are now in the middle of a gun flight. If I could point to one thing that we really do need to engage the community in, it’s helping us to monitor the plans to have these events. Parents, young people, those who are just aware these events are happening, you need to engage us. Allow us to step in and help protect our communities. We aren’t going to be able to do it alone.”

    A map was shown highlighting over 20 locations where these events have been held in recent months that span the county. Similar events have occurred in Ottawa and Muskegon counties. It’s part of a national trend, according to law enforcement.

    “Reckless driving, we can impound your car for that. Unregistered vehicles, impound your car,” said Winstrom. “Don’t expect to attend one of these events or take part in one of these events and not have very strict scrutiny from law enforcement.”

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