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Cracking Down on Oakland's Auto 'Sideshows'

Souped-up, dangerous stunts and rowdy crowds... in Oakland, Calif., those are the key elements of illegal street rallies that police are trying to stop.

The rallies -- where young drivers try to outdo one another with feats of burning rubber and rodeo-style antics -- are called "sideshows." They usually happen late at night. Word gets out and soon hundreds of people show up at an intersection or parking lot to watch as drivers do donuts or figure-eights.

The best way to find one is follow the sound of music and screeching tires, or follow your nose and the scent of burning tires. The sideshows are surviving despite Oakland's efforts to get tough.

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As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.