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June 18, 2014

Police chief, city officials speak out on Woodward cruising

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Cars drive along Woodward Avenue near Coolidge Highway June 13. Police say cruisers are driving along the avenue earlier every year in advance of the Dream Cruise in August.

ROYAL OAK — Confining the cruising and car fanfare along Woodward Avenue to just the Dream Cruise is becoming more daunting, according to Royal Oak Police Chief Corey O’Donohue.

The one-day event in August gradually and unofficially has grown to start when the weather turns warm, city officials and residents say.

This year, O’Donohue said, cruisers began hitting Woodward as far back as March with their drag racing, speeding and tire squealing.

“The pre-cruisers are showing up earlier and earlier,” said O’Donohue at the June 2 City Commission meeting.

Police have stepped up patrols on the avenue during specific nights of the week and have looked to force cruisers out of the parking lots where they tend to congregate.

“The officers are doing what they can to kind of discourage that activity,” O’Donohue said.

The item was brought up for discussion at the June 2 City Commission meeting after resident Marcia Tong, who lives along Arden Place, said the noise that cruisers make keeps her from opening her windows during the summer.

“My neighbors and I are listening to at least 40 hours of noise a week,” Tong said.

She said the speeding on Woodward has spread into her neighborhood.

“We have seen cars go through our neighborhood, where I live, at 70 mph,” she said.

O’Donohue has stepped up the police force. In May alone, the police wrote 94 traffic citations along Woodward Avenue between 12 Mile and 14 Mile roads, according to the city. The offenses include drag racing, tire squealing and equipment making excessive noise.

Further, the Police Department is working to gain power of attorney for all businesses with large lots on Woodward.

O’Donohue said once power of attorney is obtained, the police can enforce business parking violations on behalf of the property owner.

When a business is open in the evening, though, the chief said it is difficult to move cruisers along.

“You do get into a push and shove where they’ll go in and buy a coffee and they’ll say, ‘Well, I’m a customer,’” O’Donohue said.

Mayor Jim Ellison called enforcement a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

“I would simply add that on the other side of that is for every car that is parked some place, it’s not on the street making noise,” Ellison said. “You see a lot of cars parked and people are just talking, congregating and looking at their cars, and they’re not driving.”

Ellison said the greatest defense against aggressive driving as a result of cruising is a visual deterrent of a police car.

“It’s not against the law to drive on the street,” he said. “It’s against the law to squeal your tires, but when people see a police car, they’re not going to do that.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.