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Thanh Nien Weekly had an exclusive ride-along with Ho Chi Minh City police during a recent citywide raid on illegal street racing

A man being detained by police for participating in an illegal street-race in Ho Chi Minh City on March 5

Nguyen Kim Hoang, 27, climbed on top of his motorbike last Saturday, and headed out for a wild night of illegal street racing.

At 7 a.m. Sunday, he walked out of a police station with his copy of a form he'd signed, acknowledging that he had committed a crime.

Hoang was one of roughly 300 motorbike owners who had their bikes confiscated by Ho Chi Minh City police during an all-night, multi-agency sting.

Senior Lieutenant Colonel Phan Van Chung, vice chief of police of Binh Thanh District, said they are considering pressing criminal charges of "public disturbance" against the illegal racers found with repeated violations.

"We're filing criminal charges in the hope that this will serve as a deterrent to others," he said.

According to the municipal police department, this was the biggest-ever raid of illegal street racing in the city, drawing officers from the traffic police, the vice squad and even administrators and accountants.

For the first time, swarms of plain-clothes police officers disguised themselves as racers and lured the scofflaws into intersections where their fellow officers were laying in wait.

Illegal street racing has become a common weekend scourge in HCMC.

At times, no actual racing takes place. Instead, swarms of young motorbike drivers clog wide roadways to perform dangerous tricks.

Some can be seen driving with their feet, either by standing or lying recumbent on their seats. Others drive with crossed hands or switch drivers"”mid-saddle. Many of these maneuvers are performed at high speeds on suped-up bikes.

Groups of up to hundreds of such racers can also be seen speeding through the streets, weaving dangerously through traffic.

Police say the practice has come to be known as "storming" by the participants. According to Vietnam's National Traffic Safety Committee, 13,713 reported road traffic accidents nationwide led to 11,060 deaths and 10,306 injuries in 2010.

Last Saturday, Thanh Nien Weekly had an exclusive opportunity to accompany the police on their ingenious citywide sting operation.

At around 11 p.m. police responded to calls about hundreds of motorbikes storming through major streets in District 6.

A joint force made up of officers from Phu Lam police station, the district crime-branch police and officers from 14 ward stationhouses planned to surround them at the corner of Le Quang Sung and Mai Xuan Thuong streets, according to Lt. Col. Lam Van Thai of the District 6 police.

At midnight, a group of street racers driving more than 50 motorbikes entered their trap.

A few bold hotdoggers attempted to rush the police line; they stopped only after police fired a series of warning shots. Meanwhile, patrols elsewhere in the city managed to seize around 50 motorbikes.

Following the raids in District 6, many of the perpetrators fled across the city toward Binh Thanh District one of the city's prime hot spots for street racing.

But Binh Thanh police had already dispatched a team of officers to ambush both local and visiting racers.

Starting around 10:30 p.m., hundreds of motorbikes in the district had ripped down Hoang Hoa Tham and Phan Dang Luu streets. The group then rushed toward No Trang Long, Nguyen Xi, Xo Viet Nghe Tinh and D2 streets, where they gathered at an intersection to hold two-man sprints.

As various traffic patrols neared their race, the group of about 800 motorbikes dispersed to surrounding streets.

Police continued to pursue them from gathering to gathering.

It wasn't until two in the morning that the swarm entered a trap on No Trang Long Street, where hundreds of policemen had posted up in alleys and corners.

Two unmarked trucks moved into position to block off the street as the racers approached.

When the police closed in, many racers attempted to flee into alleys only to be apprehended by the waiting officers.

Some racers attempted to lay low by climbing trees; others hid in a nearby cemetery.

Police said that some desperate perpetrators even attempted to pay locals to hide them in their homes until morning.

The raid ended at around 5 a.m. after police seized a total of more than 300 motorbikes.

Captain Le Van Loi of the Binh Thanh Police Station said all the drivers were taken to local ward police stations to sign official forms acknowledging their violations before being released.

Last October, HCMC police seized more than 500 motorbikes in a bust of an illegal street race. The owners of 400 bikes were given back their bikes after they paid the necessary fines. Loi said they confiscated the other 100 because the owners hadn't shown up to take them back.

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