July 31, 2010 in City

Steering ’em straight

Edmonton police drive effort to keep racing on tracks
Meghannc@Spokesman.Com, (509) 459-5534
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Edmonton, Alberta, police Officers Mike Wynnyk, left, and Terry Innes roll their drag racer in the pits at Spokane County Raceway Park on Friday. A group of Edmonton police run a variety of race and exhibition cars as a community outreach effort to discourage street racing.
(Full-size photo)

Two Canadian police officers spent Friday at the Spokane County Raceway, touting a message they hope spreads to local racing enthusiasts.

“If you wanna race,” a message on one police race car reads, “the street is not the place.”

Terry Innes and Mike Wynnyk, officers with the Edmonton Police Department in Alberta, started the Blue Line Racing Association 13 years ago to curb illegal street racing they said cost the city thousands of dollars in property damage and led to deaths and serious injuries.

Wynnyk, a licensed mechanic and self-proclaimed car enthusiast, said they began showing up at car shows and other racing events to promote the program and show off their cars.

“It brings a human side to racing,” Innes said. “If we didn’t back up what we said, we wouldn’t have that credibility.”

The idea? Gently encourage racers to join organized events at the raceway, not illegal street events.

“We’re saying, ‘Guys , it’s OK, we’re car guys, too,’ ” Wynnyk said. “We’re here to help you learn why we gotta do what we do.”

As a teenager, Wynnyk totaled a car while street racing. He turned to drag racing and became a licensed mechanic.

Spokane County Raceway operator Ron Hodgson said he’s hoping Spokane-area law enforcement create similar programs. Police say they’d love to, but resources are tight.

“We can’t keep enough officers on the street as it is,” said Spokane police Officer Nate Spiering, who joined Innes and Wynnyk at the raceway Friday, along with Officer Ron Tilley. “How do you ask citizens for money for this when they very validly would rather have an officer show up a few minutes earlier to a burglary call?”

But Wynnyk and Innes say no taxpayer money goes to Blue Line Racing – a fact they advertised on their race cars.

While street racing may not be as prominent in the Spokane area as it was in Edmonton, it still poses a danger, Spiering said.

“There are definitely nights where it is much busier,” Spiering said. “And that usually coincides with good weather and weekends.”

Local patrols look for aggressive driving, and the Washington State Patrol focuses on decreasing the behavior that experts say is a precursor to street racing.

Today, Innes and Wynnyk will be at the raceway, 750 N. Hayford Road, Airway Heights, showing off their cars, including one they call “Canada’s fastest police car,” which can reach a top speed of 134 mph in less than 10 seconds.

They also may drive in an 8 p.m. event.


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