Lakeland street racing event marketed as cancer benefit, police say

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Lakeland’s central location makes it a hotspot for unauthorized street racing and car encounters in industrial parks on weekends, police say.

“It’s been an ongoing issue for us for a few years,” Asst said. Chief Hans Lehman of the Lakeland Police Department.

Lakeland police received a tip about one such event Sunday night at 6870 First Park Boulevard.

Courtesy of Lakeland Police Department

The event drew 300 people and resulted in 53 arrests, most of which involved people from out of town.

Detectives also seized seven firearms and a variety of illegal street weapons, and seized 31 vehicles for illegal street racing.

Those arrested are charged with trespassing and speeding on the property.

Courtesy of the Lakeland Police Department.

“We felt like it was for a charity event,” said Brandon Scandaliato, 23, of Port Richey, Florida.

Scandaliato told 8 On Your Side that he saw a social media post advertising Sunday’s event as a legal fundraiser for cancer research.

“They wanted us to give money and as soon as we started having fun, that’s when the cops came in. They used what we like to do to have fun,” he said. “The only time we make donuts is when we’re raising money for charity.”

Scandaliato said he observed cars doing donuts and driving at high speeds.

“They’re in an empty parking lot having fun and making donuts,” said Joseph Scandaliato, Brandon’s father.

“Stuff like that makes me not want to do it anymore,” he said.

According to the police, this was the purpose of the “No Need for Speed” operation this weekend.

“If you lose control, if any of these cars lose control, they’re going to take out a lot of people. There’s people standing in the middle and video inside,” Asst. Chief Lehman said. .

The video also shows passengers hanging from the windows.

Lehman said these events are taking over industrial parks and warehouses while they are closed.

With Lakeland being on the I-4 corridor between Orlando and Tampa, it has become a prime location for these encounters.

The concern is not only what happens in these properties, but also what happens next.

“They can split up and get out on the freeway, Hillsborough and FHP have had to deal with that, where they will deliberately slow traffic and then they start running ahead,” Asst said. Chief Lehman.

Owners are trying to curb this trend.

“Tearing down the scum before anyone gets really hurt or killed,” said Greg Ruthven, president of The Ruthvens, which has 3.5 million square feet of warehouse space in Central Florida.

Ruthven’s properties were also affected.

Some groups have hosted parties on properties.

Courtesy: The Ruthvens

Security video shows law enforcement breaking up one of the car gatherings before it spirals out of control.

Some of their tenants work weekends. Tractor-trailer traffic is common.

“While it might look like a big chunk of asphalt or concrete or donuts, a warehouse is not the place to do it. They have to be on a race track,” Ruthven said.

The hope is that operations like the one that took place on Sunday will deter such occurrences.

“There were several comments made as people were leaving that they weren’t coming back to Lakeland,” Asst said. Chief Lehman.

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