How many of us could care less if we never heard another word about the Kardashians?
But, when a reality TV show is based upon making celebrities of those who achieve prominence by flouting the law it is doubly bad.
When a local media outlet glorifies a former resident for achieving celebrity by rising to the top echelon of such criminals, it is thrice cursed.
Such is the case with an article in today’s Southbridge Evening News authored by Amanda Collins.
The article chronicles the dubious rise to celebrity status of Jose Rivera, a former Southbridge resident. He has been featured on a Discovery Channel reality series titled Street Outlaws.
The program “takes a driver’s seat view into the world of illegal street racing” according to the article.
Since the practice is illegal, reliable statistics are difficult to come by. The last substantial report on illegal street racing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provided the following results:
· In 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that police listed street racing as a factor in 135 fatal crashes. The total was up from 72 street-racing-related fatalities reported in 2000.
· According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, more than 800 citations for illegal street racing were issued in 2001.
· In San Diego, where the street racing problem has been termed "epidemic," 16 deaths and 31 injuries were directly related to illegal street racing in 2001. The city's attorney's office prosecuted 147 illegal street racing cases in 1999, 161 in 2000, and 290 in 2001.
· In Florida in 2001, 7,216 citations were issued for racing on the highway.
· In 1999, the Florida Department of Highway and Safety for Motor Vehicles reported 28 accidents related to illegal street racing, with 2 fatalities and 27 injuries. In 2000, the agency reported 39 racing accidents, with 1 fatality and 55 injuries. In 2002, there were 48 racing accidents, 1 fatality, and 60 injuries.
· According to the NHTSA, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 16 and 20.
· The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says 5,749 teens died in the United States from motor vehicle crash injuries in 1999.
· Nationwide statistics show that 49 people are injured for every 1,000 who participate in illegal street racing.
In 2008 Fox News reported Street Racing Deaths Are on the Rise, But Tradition Is Thriving.
The devastating trend has been encouraged in recent years by the popularity of the “Fast And Furious” movie franchise.
Despite this, and in a community where the number of “at risk” youth is a paramount issue, the local newspaper has chosen to promote an illegal street racer as some kind of role model.
Rivera moved to the Oklahoma City area in 2005, where he said in the world of street racing, you’re nobody if you’re not on “The List.” Only the 10 best street racers make the cut, and if you want to move up a notch, you have to challenge someone who’s ranked, and win. The reality show chronicles the high stakes competition.
“In Okalahoma City, racing has been really big underground,” explained Rivera. “I’ve been into it for 12 to 14 years, and when I got the call about the show, I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
As if this were not bad enough however, there is the indication that this questionable path to notoriety has the implicit endorsement of a local law-enforcement-related program.
Rivera was part of the Southbridge Police Department’s Cops N Kids program when it was first initiated by Officer Rosa more than 15 years ago.
He and his wife Christina and their 15-month-old daughter Gianna will be heading back the area this summer for the Cops N Kids car show, bringing the now famous Mustang with him.
Maybe I’m just getting old. Somehow, though, I feel that this is just not right. That feeling is apparently shared by Oklahoma City police.