The Local 4 Defenders went undercover with cameras to get deep into the high-stakes world of drag racing in metro Detroit. It’s an underground operation that has thousands of racers coming to the area in the middle of the night.
The Defenders found crowds out on the streets at all hours of the night and early morning. Bets were being made, some as large as $10,000 a race.
Hundreds gathered to show off their skills with cars pumped up on nitrous, while others just wanted to see the action. And it wasn’t all Michiganders – people came from Wisconsin and Ohio.
During one race, a car spun out less than 20 feet from a packed street, where a baby was being held by a spectator.
The Defenders found that many of the racers were teens who weren’t even racing their own cars. Older racers were paying them to drive for them.
One racer the Defenders talked to said he started competing in high school.
“They want to know who is king of the street, that’s what it is,” he said.
RAW VIDEO:Interview with racer
The racer asked not to be identified. But he said Detroit is a prime racing area because there are so many vacant streets.
“You can’t really go out on a main. So, we go out there and there’s nobody out there at that time. There’s no harm we can cause. We control our cars and everything. I mean, we know what we’re doing,” he said.
But Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon says racing is a dangerous problem because once bets and speed start flying, bullets and violence can follow.
“We are not going to tolerate drag racing on the streets of Wayne County. It's dangerous. You've been following this story for some time; we've had several shootings related to the drag racing, we've had homicides related to it, we've had vehicle deaths as a result of the drag racing,” he said.
Napoleon has personally walked the streets with investigators from a specially formed task force that is trying to put a stop to it.
“Public streets are not the places to engage in drag racing. I mean, it's just not safe for the participants, it's not safe for the spectators and it's certainly not safe for the people living in and around these neighborhoods,” he said.
Napoleon said anyone who is caught racing can have their car taken away.
"If you race in Wayne County, you have a probability of loosing your vehicle permanently," he said.
And dozens already have.
- Report drag racing: 313-833-3190
- Read: Wayne County’s vehicle forfeiture policy