AUSTIN -- Following many complaints from the Wells Branch area over the last several months, the Travis County Sheriff's Office is sending a message to street racers.
On Saturday, more than 100 officers from a multi-agency task force executed an operation months in the making. During that operation, 15 arrests were made for reckless driving and 25 citations were written for traffic violations.
"Every Saturday night they come out about 8 or 9 o'clock and, I mean, this whole parking lot fills up," Jarett Durant, who works in the area, said. "You see a lot of big trucks doing burnouts and stuff, a bunch of people riding in the back. You'll see race cars. You'll see muscle cars."
Durant saw the sting play out.
"I went to go home and I called my ride actually and he's like, 'Hey, man, I cant even get in there the cops are telling me to go around and they just got the whole parking lot blocked off," said Durant.
The sheriff's office said it all began after they received complaints that the community was fed up with the "antics of a growing group of car enthusiasts" who had been congregating in a parking lot at the corner of Wells Branch Parkway and MoPac Expressway. This parking lot would fill up in the late evening and early morning hours with cars and spectators where drivers would "burnout" as pedestrians stood dangerously close by, as well as engage in illegal street races nearby.
Officials said that as the group grew in numbers, the dangerous behavior escalated. Participants even posted videos on YouTube showing the burnouts and bragging that law enforcement "couldn't touch them."
Putting a stop to the group's activities was a challenge, the sheriff's office reported, because they gathered in a private parking lot and would race on roadways in multiple jurisdictions.
So, TCSO first spoke with the proprietors of the parking lot, who illustrated their desire that the car group no be permitted to gather on their property anymore. Then, the sheriff's office put together a multi-agency task force that included the Austin Police Department, the Department of Public Safety, the Pflugerville Police Department, the Round Rock Police Department and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.
On Saturday, the task force cleared the lot, arrested the reckless drivers and issued the citations to drivers who sped into the various jurisdictions.
TCSO said the task force will continue to enforce criminal trespass law if members of the group attempt to gather in the parking lot in the future and will be doing the same in areas where the group tends to move.
"I guess we'll see this week what happens," Durant said. "If I know the crowd, they'll find a new place, but it's nice to see someone finally putting an end to it."