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Don't drag State, S.L. decrees
Councilman cites crime as city says 'Stop!' to cruising

The carefree days of driving along State Street showing off your car and looking at the girls are officially over.

Citing increased crime, noise and congestion, the Salt Lake City Council Tuesday approved an ordinance prohibiting State Street "dragging" or cruising."It's not about just a little disruption," Chairman Keith Christensen said. "It's about serious crime."

The ordinance applies to State, Main and West Temple from South Temple to 2100 South, and 2100 South from 300 West to 1700 East. Those areas may be changed or expanded if cruisers switch to another venue.

What used to be a relatively innocent pastime has grown into a big problem, police say. Two murders have occurred on State Street in the past two years, both associated with cruising. There have also been 1,000 assaults and 3,000 disturbing-the-peace type incidents during that time, resulting in 1,500 arrests a year the past few years.

Street-side apartment residents have complained long and loud about the noise -- stereos blasting, teenagers yelling, souped-up cars growling.

"It wrecks your sleep," said Ray Barton, president of the homeowners association at the Gateway Apartments at First Avenue and State. "It's like a rally after a game."

City officials also say the gridlock hinders people trying to get from Point A to Point B, as well as emergency vehicles.

Not everyone is happy with the change. Councilwoman Deeda Seed, who voted against it along with Councilwoman Joanne Milner, said it only imposes another layer on a set of laws that could be enforced now -- illegal drugs, noise ordinance, crime and the like.

Councilman Carlton Christensen, however, after riding with police on a weekend night, concluded that "they are overwhelmed" and need another tool to control the situation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah isn't thrilled about the change either. Legal director Stephen Clark told the council Tuesday that the ordinance increases the danger of police illegally "profiling," or singling out for harassment, Hispanics and other minorities.

As one might expect, the cruisers themselves also oppose the ordinance.

"We're just going to go somewhere else," 19-year-old Don Stout told the council. "Kids need something to do."

Keith Christensen, however, noted that the ordinance will apply only between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., and intimated that the "something" youths should be doing in those hours is being home in bed.

The ordinance will prohibit anyone from passing a given point on State Street between South Temple and 1300 South, as well as 2100 South between 200 West and 1700 East, more than twice going the same direction.

Police will likely start passing out tickets a week from Friday.

There has been much hand-wringing over the past few months over eliminating a "rite of passage" for Wasatch Front youths, many of whom come from as far away as Utah and Weber counties to cruise State. Many of the officials involved freely admitted that they themselves cruised State in their formative years.

There are exceptions, however.

"Somehow I came to adulthood without ever cruising," Carlton Christensen said.