HC Sheriff cracks down on illegal racing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 3, 2004

WINTON – Wide black marks snake their way down a portion of the Baker Store Road in southwestern Hertford County. Trash litters the ditch banks and fields, all telltale signs of the illegal activity of automotive racing on public roadways.

Those involved in this unlawful form of entertainment had a few surprise visitors to crash their traditional Sunday afternoon party when, this past weekend, law enforcement officials with a trio of Hertford County agencies put a halt to this illegal amusement.

One man was arrested on Tuesday – David White, 40, of Edenton, on the charge of pre-arranged racing – but Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said others involved in the illegal racing ring are currently under investigation. The Sheriff promised more arrests would be made.

&uot;This will not be tolerated in Hertford County,&uot; stressed Sheriff Vaughan. &uot;As we continue to investigate this matter and file additional charges, we will send the message that you cannot come to Hertford County and engaged in illegal racing.&uot;

Using surveillance provided by two members of the Roanoke-Chowan Narcotics Task Force, Sunday afternoon’s racing was captured on videotape. The Sheriff said that tape showed four cars – two in each race – traveling at a high rate of speed down the Baker Store Road, in a direction back towards the Jim Hardy Road. Another part of the tape revealed a race between two motorcycles.

The Task Force and the North Carolina Highway Patrol joined Sheriff’s deputies in coming in from all directions and surrounding the site of the illegal racing.

When he viewed the tape from this past Sunday’s chain of events, Vaughan said, &uot;Danger was everywhere. &uot;First, there was an accident waiting to happen with these vehicles running side by side at high rates of speed. Then you figure in what could have happened if one of those vehicles lost control and careened off the road, in the direction of hundreds of spectators standing in an adjacent field.&uot;

The Sheriff estimated that between the race site and the Forest Inn Nightclub, located just a short distance away and opened for business, there were approximately 500 individuals &uot;milling about.&uot; Citations, on a variety of charges, were issued to 40 people.

In addition to White’s arrest and the citations, three vehicles were seized – a 1987 Chevrolet Camaro, registered to George Kenneth Darden of Gates; a 1981 Chevrolet Malibu, owned by Jerome Skeeter of Suffolk, Va.; and a 2002 Suzuki motorcycle registered to Continia Jenkins Bond of Kelford. The Sheriff said each was equipped for competition, including racing &uot;slicks&uot; (rear tires). He added that each of the seized vehicles was parked at the Forest Inn.

According to law, Sheriff Vaughan is to place a bond on each vehicle. That bond can be posted by the owners, at which time they can regain possession of their vehicle. However, once the case goes to court, a judge can, within their power, order the owner(s) to surrender the vehicle(s) to the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office.

When asked if the illegal racing was occurring every Sunday, the Sheriff said, to his knowledge based upon complaints received from those living near the scene, that the events had been ongoing for several months, but not every Sunday.

&uot;Surveillance was set-up the previous Sunday where several vehicles and individuals were present, but no races were conducted,&uot; acknowledged the Sheriff. &uot;It was just a matter of proper timing for us to have the surveillance set-up on the same day that the racing occurred.&uot;

The Sheriff thanked the Task Force and the Highway Patrol for their assistance.