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Police Rev Up Enforcement in Advance of Woodward Dream Cruise

Royal Oak police chief: The issue isn’t cruising as much as it is large groups of car enthusiasts congregating in private parking lots and disrupting business, inconveniencing customers and leaving trash behind.

Customized street rods like this one are a common site in Royal Oak in the weeks leading up to the Woodward Dream Cruise on Aug. 16. (Patch file photo)
Customized street rods like this one are a common site in Royal Oak in the weeks leading up to the Woodward Dream Cruise on Aug. 16. (Patch file photo)

Law enforcement efforts are being revved up in advance of the Aug. 16 Woodward Dream Cruise, a parade of classic cars – and new ones – down Woodward Avenue, the nation’s first highway.

The nostalgia filled event that recalls 50s and 60s, when kids cruised the streets in their hotrods is a one-day event in theory, but in practice, it runs from April to the actual date of the cruise, Aug. 16.

Some residents have complained that the constant stream of traffic is too much and is affecting their quality of life . Businesses have said large groups congregating in parking lots inconveniencetheir customers, disrupt business and leave trash behind in their lots.

“The issue along Woodward is not cruising, but rather large groups congregating in private lots,” Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said in a statement. “Only one business, the Shell gas station, encourages cruisers to congregate.”

O’Donohue said every other business along Woodward discourages the cruisers.

“The Normandy Plaza is a regular problem because the cruisers may frequent a business and assume a cup of coffee entitles them to sit in the lot all evening,” O’Donohue said.

A clerk at the Shell station told The Daily Tribune the Dream Cruise event is good for business and for Royal Oak.

“A little while ago (Detroit Tigers pitcher) Justin Verlander drove through our lot in a Lamborghini,” Chris Kado said. “We get all kinds of people up here. It’s good relations with all the customers.”

O’Donohue believes the police department’s enforcement efforts – 91 tickets written on 117 complains between April and June 23 – are helping to mitigate the problems and have kept activity on Woodward from “getting out of control.”

“But we have not been able to completely resolve the issue,” he said. Our efforts are focused on enforcing driving violations, discouraging disorderly activity, and protecting the property rights of private businesses.”

He said the enforcement will continue and he’ll adjust the number of officers on shifts as necessary when Dream Cruise efforts peak. Of the 117 complaints, 100 of them were based on first-hand observations.

Jay Harbin, 81, of Berkley has been a Dream Cruise enthusiast since long before he could drive, said he understands the additional police presence.

“When I was young I used to like to go out there and race from light to light,” he told The Daily Tribune after parking his blue 1960 Chevy Impala in the Shell gas station lot near Normandy and Woodward.

“As far as the guys squealing their tires and making noise, the police can calm them down,” he said. “They can catch them and write them a ticket. Tickets are expensive.”

The first ticket of the Dream Cruise season was written in March near Potbelly’s Restaurant in Normandy Plaza, where O’Donohue said most of the problems are located, after an officer spotted about 30 foreign imports and customized street rods, congregated there, much as they did at drive-in restaurants decades ago.

About a dozen businesses with private lots have given the police department legal authority to ticket vehicles or have them towed.

Harbin told The Daily Tribune the Dream Cruise celebrates a rite of passage among young American men and many of the people complaining about the event “were doing the same thing earlier in their lives.”

Michael S. July 14, 2014 at 12:59 AM
My issue isn't with people wanting to come out and cruise, but when you are going under the speed limit and impeding traffic. couple that with loitering and yes people should be ticketed. I get out of town every year during the weeks leading up to this event. The closer it gets, the harder it is to fight through traffic. People in the past have brought up a very good point about emergency vehicles not being able to get through because people are congesting the roadways. Not to mention the number of people who decide to cut through neighborhoods or park in the neighborhoods taking parking away from the residence who actually park in front of their homes or have children who play in the area. Yes for this local resident I plan on being far away myself so I don't have to suck on the horrible fumes from the exhaust and deal with unruly drunks and parents who let their wild and careless offspring run-a-muck. Sure it may stimulate the economy for some and bring some big names and all that, but in the long run it causes more headaches and damages than it probably is worth.
Joe Woodward July 19, 2014 at 11:01 AM
I pay big taxes to live in Birmingham and expect that Birmingham gets this in control. the pollution will kill us all, do some research, this ozone depleting pollutants from many of these modified cars is extremely dangerous to our health as residents.
Mark Itall July 19, 2014 at 09:39 PM
News flash Joe: Woodward is a public road, people can drive on it as much as they want 24/7. Not a darn thing you can do about it, so lower your blood pressure. Impeding traffic, in parking lots without permission, etc., go get 'em cops. Oh, and Joe, I know lots of people from Birmingham with their butts in those lawn chairs, you snob.

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