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California Expands Crackdown on Modified Cars
California agency issued $4.4 million in local grants for a modified car ticketing campaign that generates more than $10 million in revenue for the state.

Mitsubishi Evo
The California Office of Traffic Safety issued $4.4 million in grants last Friday to three law enforcement agencies to fund an ongoing crackdown on vehicles with "illegal" modifications. The Highway Patrol (CHP) received the largest of the grants at $2,980,587. Ontario police collected $620,000 and Irwindale police $321,044. The grants are designed to fund training and support for efforts to reduce illegal street racing. In practice, the effort has focused on issuing traffic citations to owners of modified cars with the state government collecting far more in citation revenue than has been handed out in grants.

The California Highway Patrol alone issued 101,553 citations worth $10.5 million in 2004 for modified car infractions, according to information the CHP provided to theNewspaper. These tickets were neither moving violations nor safety related. Instead, they included driving with an unapproved exhaust or intake system, using a loud stereo and driving without the rear license plate illuminated. The vast majority of citations, 82,220, were given for dark window tinting while the second greatest number, 8919, were given for driving without a front plate.

Enthusiasts complain much of the law enforcement effort has been directed at cars manufactured in Asia, particularly Hondas and Acuras. Owners of vehicles inspired by cars that race in the World Rally Championship such as the Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru WRX STi also have produced citations that showed the owner of an entirely stock vehicle had been stopped and accused of illegal modifications. In April, Los Angeles police took down the license plate numbers of Evo owners who had merely gathered to swap stories and share the experiences they had in owning similar vehicles. The police then mailed each participant an accusatory letter, even though no law had been broken and no resident had been disturbed by the friendly meeting.

"These vehicles were either gathering in preparation to race, or were actually involved in street racing." Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton wrote. "...We are prepared to prosecute all parties to the full extent of the law."

Police in Riverside and San Bernardino counties last week also generated publicity by inviting television news crews to film four customized automobiles, including a 1993 Honda Civic and a 1998 Acura Integra, being crushed after having been seized over accusations that the cars were illegally modified. Officials claimed that some of the parts used, despite purchase receipts, may have been stolen. The crushing took place without any of the accusations being proved in a court of law.

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