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Taking Back Our Streets

Thirteen year-old Mitchell Levinson stared straight into the camera at the press conference last week, with all the confidence of an adult as he spoke. Perhaps he’s older than his years now, after all he’s been through.

His mother, Connie Levinson, was killed last October when a street racer slammed into a Van Nuys restaurant after fleeing the scene of  a street takeover. He swerved around a bus and lost control of the car, crashing through the front door of the building and traveling  75 feet through the crowd to the back of the structure. Levinson was killed instantly.

“I want them to know there will be serious consequences because of the new laws the senator has made. I hope something like this never happens again,” Mitchell said on camera.

The new law he referenced was a bill with an increased, stronger set of penalties to crack down on illegal street racing and side shows that State Senator Henry Stern is pushing through Sacramento.

Street racing and speeding incidents have claimed other victims in the past two years, including a single mother and a motorcyclist in West Hills, and two children in Westlake Village.

LAPD has said that straight, long streets encourage speeding and racing. Complaints on NextDoor and Facebook post incidents of excess speed on streets such as  Tampa, Reseda and White Oak.  Unfortunately, social media has also contributed to these dangerous sideshows, encouraging participants, which often lead to excess speed as they’re broken up. Citations for the dangerous events are up 300% from 2015 – from 86 arrests to 341 in 2020.

“Cars are weapons,” said Stern, and whether it’s a sideshow, a street race or just excessive speeding, these are not victimless crimes.”

Mitchell knows this all too well. He took the day off from school to be at the press conference announcing the stronger penalties, because, “It’s important to be out here. People need to know that street racing is very serious.”

Unfortunately, the suspect that killed his mother was already known to LAPD and had been charged in a reckless driving incident the year before. “He was a young person driving insanely fast on residential streets and he could’ve killed many more people,” one LAPD officer said. 

Councilman Bob Blumenfield has also joined the effort to crack down on such offenders.

“Speeding and street racing have increased in the West Valley and around the city. The pandemic has only made this problem worse and I am taking action to address this escalating crisis,” he told Valley News Group. “Last week, the City Council passed my motion to allocate $100,000 of district funds for a devoted Street Racing Task Force to help patrol key West Valley hotspots like Vanalden Ave and Valley Circle Blvd. 

In my meetings with LAPD, one of the plaguing issues we discussed is that state law is far too lenient on these racing criminals. For example, per existing law there is only a finite amount of time cars can be impounded and the penalties across the board simply do not match the crime. That is why I was happy to join State Senator Henry Stern last week as he announced that he is pursuing increased, stronger penalties as well as more local resources. Too many people have lost loved ones or have lasting injuries because of reckless drivers and we must do more.”

Greg Levinson, Mitchell’s father, agrees. “Mitchell wanted to come out to the press conference on his own, saying ‘It’s important to show what I’ve lost, and what I hope will never happen to another family.’”

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