By Andre Davancens, Nov. 21, 2023
You’re on your way home from a long day at work when you hear the screaming of tires in the distance. As you approach the next intersection you’re greeted by a street takeover, blocking your way through. Not only is your way through blocked, but back the way you came quickly disappears as your car gets swarmed and destroyed.
In May, this happened to Stephanie Sargisian and is not uncommon of street takeovers. Street takeovers are dangerous, criminal events that put in danger not just those participating, but also those spectating and those who want nothing to do with it.
Takeovers started to come out of the shadows with the COVID-19 pandemic. You could see on a friend’s Instagram story that someone is doing donuts in a completely empty street as the rest of the world is locked away.
Slowly these grew from one car in an intersection to crowds of people and multiple cars filling Southern California streets and intersections.
Social media gave takeovers a platform to grow from a local nuisance to a national epidemic. While scrolling through Instagram and TikTok, you’ll be greeted by thousands of videos of people getting hit, people pulling out weapons and the destruction of property under the umbrella of a “takeover.”
Often, takeovers get lumped into modern car culture. It is easy to draw connections between the two because both are centered around cars. The important distinction between takeovers and car culture is the culture behind it.
Cars are a huge part of my life for a good reason. I have met some of my best friends through cars and have had some of my best memories because of them. Throughout my college life, the rich nightlife of the San Gabriel Valley and surrounding areas, has given me plenty of parking lots to fill, people to cruise with and roads to explore.
There is something therapeutic about being able to find a car meet alone and just talking to new people. The cars are not the destination, the conversations with the owners and their stories are.
This is where takeovers diverge from what I call car culture. Takeovers are not about the stories of the people in attendance, they aren’t about the journey of building a car. Takeovers are simply criminal exhibitions. You won’t see someone waving a gun around at a car show, car meet or a cruise.
The COVID-19 pandemic thrust takeovers into the limelight, causing them to become more and more associated with car culture. This false association has been a cancer growing, slowly killing the hobby that has been such a large part of my life.
Sadly, being in California, the simple act of modifying a car and personalizing it to be your own is typically illegal and exorbitantly expensive to do legally. In the past, police were more understanding of it as a hobby.
There was an understanding that there are street racers, and there are just regular car enthusiasts. However, it wasn’t until recently that there is a perception that all car enthusiasts are street racers or takeover participants.
As a result, police have cracked down on all modified cars. They make assumptions and have taken a one size fits all approach to all cars.
I have found that it is steadily becoming more difficult to find a street that doesn’t have donut marks on it. It used to be that you could only find evidence of this in the occasional parking lot, side road or remote canyon drive.
The presence of these donuts everywhere is a symbol of how widespread the issue has become.
Takeovers recklessly endanger everyone and have used car culture as a façade to hide the crime culture at its core.
Feature image courtesy of Jose A. Mosqueda
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