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‘Truly alarming’: Police release video of illegal car rallies in Vaughan, Ont.

York Regional Police have released a compilation video showing several instances of “illegal car rallies” in Vaughan and say they are cracking down after the city made bylaw amendments to target them.

The video shows aerial images of hundreds of people gathered at a plaza parking parking lot while cars perform burnouts, people dangle from the open trunk of a vehicle as it drives across the lot, and about a dozen people rock a car back and forth during a burnout.

“The sheer size and scope of these rallies should be truly alarming to everyone,” said police chief Jim MacSween at a press conference on Tuesday.

“These stunts are often performed in front of groups of onlookers who stand far too close to the dangerous activities in an effort to capture the next viral video for social media,” MacSween said.

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MacSween said since 2001, there have been 532 car rallies in the region with 331 of them in Vaughan alone.

He said the groups take over private property, usually in large plaza parking lots, and perform dangerous driving stunts such as drifting, burnouts, wheelies and doughnuts. He also noted they cause excessive noise.

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Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said amendments were made to the city’s special events and noise bylaws to “broaden” the types of behaviour in relation to illegal car rallies.

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Del Duca said the amendments apply to those who are onlookers or bystanders to the rallies, even if they are not performing the car stunts. They also apply those who are the registered owners of a car found at the event, even if those owners say they weren’t there. The amendments also increase penalties.

The bylaws also prohibit sponsoring, collecting money, coordinating or hosting any unauthorized car rally, being a vendor, riding as a passenger, or causing traffic as a consequence of the rally.

“More people will face penalties,” Del Duca said.

The City of Vaughan said the maximum fine associated with participating in or having a vehicle at an unauthorized car rally is $10,000, according to the special events bylaw, and $5,000 for the noise bylaw.

City officials and police officers can also issue administrative penalties of $1,000 for a first offence and $2,000 for any subsequent offence.

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The city said the noise by-law has been amended to prohibit anyone from emitting, causing or permitting noise from an unauthorized car rally.

MacSween said anecdotally that the car rallies can pop up rather quickly and then move to another location. Del Duca referenced one instance when police and city officials tried to stop one rally.

“They didn’t all go home,” Del Duca said. “They literally shared on social media, or perhaps a chat group, and they all decamped from one plaza and went to another plaza in a different part of our city. And they did it like that,” Del Duca said snapping his fingers.

Del Duca said the city will also be working with plaza owners.

Police, together with the city of Vaughan, have launched “Operation Silent Night” in order to crack down on unauthorized illegal car rallies.

MacSween said he hopes the same amendments are made to other municipalities in York Region.

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