The City of Santa Maria says vandalism and street racing in the mall parking lot off Cook Street have gotten out of hand. The city is now closing off the third floor of the parking garage at night.
Currently, signs are up warning people not to enter after 8 p.m. but they’re not stopping drivers, so the city is going to spend $10,000 for a gate, barricades, spike strips, signage, and more enforcement.
City Ranger Casey Stone patrols the Santa Maria mall parking garage multiple times a shift.
"We might get drinking, marijuana use. We do catch a lot of people that are driving way too fast around the structures. The speed limit posted is 15," Stone said. "We regularly have a graffiti crew that comes around. We get so much graffiti here we have a crew here every other day, covering it up."
City officials say the bigger problem is those who are racing on top of the garage at night.
"I’ve heard it, I’ve definitely heard it!" said Ana Gomez, shopper.
"A lot of burnout marks from vehicles, street racing and people doing donuts," Stone said.
As a result, the city says the "do not enter" signs in place now will soon be replaced with heavy duty lift gates.
"The goal we have is trying to provide the communities with that extra sense of safety," said Alex Posada, City of Santa Maria Parks and Recreation. "When you hear cars racing around the parking garage, it doesn’t give you that sense of safety. You always think that some car might come around a corner and create a safety issue for you or your kids."
Some shoppers say it could just cause the racers to go to some other vacant parking lot at night.
"I feel like they are just going to move somewhere else," Gomez said. "It’s not really going to stop."
"I don’t think it will decrease them doing it," said Tabetha Pigman, shopper. "Because it’s illegal and they are doing it anyway. They don’t really care what the laws are."
Rangers say they have caught and cited some drivers racing up on the third level, some without licenses.
"We don’t catch a lot of them but we have caught about eight in the last six months," Stone said. "I would say it’s easily going on four or five times a shift. It’s just a matter of you not here to catch them when it’s happening."
Come mid-July, the city says the gate and spike strips will go up on the third floor only. People can leave past 8 p.m., but they cant re-enter. Gates will open again at 7 a.m.
The city has also installed cameras on the top level of the garage. In some cases, they’ve been able to pull the license plate numbers of cars that were racing. The city will not be changing the other parking structure at the mall.