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'This lawlessness in Silver Spring has to stop' | Montgomery Co. leaders vow to crack down on car rallies with reckless driving

On Monday, Montgomery County leaders said they would expand the use of license plate reader data to help catch people who take part in reckless car rallies.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Following a car rally that led to dozens of people recklessly driving and disrupting traffic over the weekend, Montgomery County leaders vowed on Monday to crack down on similar events and to punish drivers who take part in the rallies. 

On Saturday, county leaders said around 150 cars took part in a rally that began in the Target parking lot off Cherry Hill Road and went on for several hours while drivers blocked other cars and spun out in a busy intersection in downtown Silver Spring.

Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker expressed outrage during a meeting on Monday and called on leadership to do more to stop the problem.

"This lawlessness in Silver Spring has to stop," he said. "I believe we need a much more vigorous and coordinated law enforcement effort to step up and take action to prevent future incidents like these from happening and shut them down immediately before someone gets killed or seriously injured.”

Hucker said he found out about the incident from videos posted to social media and through media reports, not from law enforcement or the county.

He added that the car rallies were an ongoing issue before calling for more police presence and visibility in areas like downtown Silver Spring. 

"We really would like to see more initiative coming from the county executive and the chief on this," Hucker said. "This is not a new issue. I asked the chief to propose solutions and to be proactive. I asked him if he needed any additional funding or additional authority. He says he does not.” 

Following the meeting, WUSA9 spoke to Montgomery County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard about what the county planned to do to crack down on the issue.

Stoddard echoed the concerns about the problems and said investigators planned to expand the use of license plate reader data to catch the drivers. 

"This allows us to connect license plates to vehicles that we observe in video," he said. "We can share the information with insurance providers so that they can then create a financial disincentive for people to be part of these rallies.”

Stoddard told WUSA9 that police believed many of the drivers who took part in the Saturday rally came from other states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

While officers have monitored similar events in the past, he said they presented challenges for catching people connected to them.

"They move around. They pick different locations. They largely organize on closed social media groups," Stoddard said. "A lot of what we’ve heard is, 'Why weren’t police there?' The reality is that police were there. It’s very difficult for police to be every single place they’re at.” 

Aside from facing possible insurance penalties, Stoddard said drivers found to be driving recklessly in these types of events could face penalties ranging from heavy fines to jail time.

Moving forward, Stoddard called on people in the county to record any similar rallies if they see them and to send the video to the police. He added that people can also call 911 to report reckless driving in real-time so police can respond sooner.

"It’s obviously critically important to our residents that we show that we’re going to maintain a civil and family-friendly environment, particularly in downtown Silver Spring," he said. "This is certainly a regional group that we really don’t want to come to Silver Spring and cause problems like they did on Saturday night.”

The incident on Saturday came just a week after Fairfax County Police said a car meet-up drew crowds in the hundreds in the Kingstowne Towne Center. 

Video showed hundreds of cars in the packed shopping center parking lot with a large group of people gathered in the center of one lot watching cars do burnouts. There are also videos on social media that show drivers also blocking an intersection in order to do donuts.

Police said they were able to get the group to disperse, but they continued to gather elsewhere. The department utilized its helicopter to assist with overhead coverage. In all, the spokesperson said it took 90 minutes, if not longer, to break the crowd up.

There were two minor crashes from vehicles leaving the area, but an FCPD spokesperson said there were no injuries.

According to FCPD, they are now going to try and press charges based on the photo evidence obtained.

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