Police Thwart Drag Race, Arrest 61 on Incinerator Site

By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In the predawn hours Sunday, more than 60 people -- mostly young men in their late teens and early twenties -- showed up for some drag races at an unusual spot: the local trash incinerator in Fairfax County.

But before the rubber started burning at the county Energy Resource Recovery Facility in Lorton, police said, officers acted on a tip and stopped the races as they were being organized. They arrested 59 adults and two juveniles and charged them with trespassing on private property.

Police said the participants, mostly men and several from Prince William County, were arrested about 1:45 a.m. as some of them were preparing their cars to race on a 1 1/2 -mile-long access road at the 500-acre facility. When police arrived, they blocked the cars in, said Officer Shelley Broderick, a Fairfax County police spokeswoman.

"Somebody called in that morning because they observed vehicles on the property that looked suspicious," Broderick said. "It's not something that happens all the time in the county . . . but Fairfax County police take the issue of drag racing seriously. It's a very dangerous thing to partake in, and people can die as a result of doing it. Anybody that has information on these incidents is always asked to call the police department so we can investigate."

Drag racing and other reckless driving have caused dozens of deaths in the Washington area in the past few years, especially among teenagers.

In the fall of 2004, 17 teenagers were killed in car crashes across the area, leading the Virginia and Maryland legislatures to launch efforts to make teenagers more responsible behind the wheel. Most recently, in March 2005, a West Springfield High School senior who was sitting in the passenger seat of a car was killed after his friend engaged in what police called an "exhibition of speed" with another teenage driver.

Police said the group Sunday morning was made up mostly of young adults, with two men in their thirties and forties. It was unclear how the group members organized and how they knew one another, Broderick said. Many of the participants were from Manassas, Woodbridge and Nokesville.

Amarjit Riat, the chief of the Energy Resource Recovery Facility, said no gate blocks access to the road where the group was setting up the races because trucks deliver materials to the complex throughout the night. He and other county officials might consider adding speed bumps and installing a gate, he said.

"I was surprised that this thing happened. I could not imagine 60 people coming here on site with their cars," Riat said.

Joyce Doughty, the director of the county's Division of Solid Waste Disposal and Resource Recovery, said speed bumps were placed on the site in the early 1990s after a drag racing incident. "We thought we had discouraged this type of activity," she said.

The resource recovery facility, in the 9800 block of Furnace Road, burns county trash to produce electrical power, Doughty said. The facility takes up about 26 of the site's 500 acres, with the rest dominated by a landfill that has not been used since 1995, she said.

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