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Drivers question timing of Grand Ave police checkpoint

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PEORIA, Ariz. -

The Peoria Police department defending itself against allegations it set up a checkpoint to racially profile drivers.

They say it was purely for safety reasons -- but that's not the way some saw it.

The backup was long -- and the frustration high. Peoria Police officers questioned drivers and had cars towed away at a checkpoint along Grand Avenue in Peoria Tuesday night.

But just what were they looking for?

"We were really concerned with this," says immigrant rights activist Lydia Guzman.

Guzman says she received calls from concerned people who thought officers were conducting immigration checks.

"Is this an enforcement of SB 1070, is this another of Sheriff Joe's operation? There were a lot of questions."

The Peoria Police department says this operation was primarily to check commercial vehicle. But in a statement to FOX 10, police added that "a second component of this checkpoint was to check non-commercial vehicles for registration."

"It was amazing because right after Obama does his speech, then there are people coming from the valley, coming back from Vegas, driving back very excited and then suddenly being stopped and asked for their ID."

Peoria Police has decided to halt any further car registration checkpoints partly because of the traffic mess it created. But also, "we want our community members to know this operation never involved racial profiling and did not in any way target a driver's immigration status," police said.

"This does indeed cause a lot of mistrust in the community with the police and seeing the chief's reaction really puts us at ease," says Guzman.

"We are still going to meet with the chief of police, he has reached out to us so we can have our questions answered."

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