An average of more than 100 complaints a month about abandoned vehicles — cars, trucks, boats, trailers, RVs and more — come into Petaluma police, and on Wednesday the city is taking action.

Police Lt. Tim Lyons says a total of eight officers from the Police Department’s traffic unit, from parking enforcement and from code enforcement will be hitting the city’s streets at 8 a.m. with the goal of going up and down every single street, looking for abandoned vehicles parked on the roads. They won’t check vehicles on driveways, he says.

It’s easy figuring out which ones have been abandoned, he says. Telltale signs are weeds growing up around the vehicles, dust and dirt on them, flat tires, a car cover may be in shreds, the registration is expired and it’s clear street sweepers have been going around them.

Lyons says the officers will ticket the vehicles, giving owners 72 hours to remove them or they’ll be towed when the officers come back to check. The officers also will be looking for vehicles with license registrations that expired more than six months ago.

So far this year, Petaluma police has received 1,140 complaints about abandoned vehicles — 105 just last month, Lyons says.

A similar abandoned vehicle crackdown in July by the police traffic unit resulted in 263 vehicles being cited, and he said 18 eventually were towed.

Owners with inoperable vehicles can arrange to have them donated to a local nonprofit or can call police at 778-4496 to arrange for them to be towed for free, Lyons says.


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  1. Rex Faktor

    A small percentage of these are legit complaints about actual nuisance vehicles…unregistered, non-running cars that are no longer wanted but have not yet been disposed of.
    Many more are the result of busy-bodies who want to be assistant police officers by calling in the neighbor’s car that sat for a month because he was saving up for a major repair…or the extra van that sits waiting for camping weekend…or the truck only used for dump runs. People are sometimes known to develop “parking spot envy” too…

    November 26th, 2012 8:41 pm

  2. darnell

    Did they even look at the weather report for Wed. morning? I’d think they’d have their hands full with weather related incidents.

    November 27th, 2012 9:46 am

  3. Fred Mangels

    Rex makes a good point. We have a vehicle abatement program in Eureka. I don’t know that we’ve had much of a problem with abuse of the complaint system, but you do hear of frivolous abandoned vehicle complaints every now and then.

    You do need to be careful with proactive policing of the problem. That can lead to things getting out of hand, at least temporarily.

    After our then-new police chief announced a big effort to clear our streets of abandoned vehicles, I went out one morning to find my work trailer tagged for potential removal. I use that trailer nearly every day and that should have been well known by anyone who frequently drives by my house.

    I figured it was either an overzealous officer or, more likely, some internal departmental politics with the officer tagging my trailer to make the police chief look bad. Such can be the unintended consequences of such efforts.

    November 27th, 2012 10:10 am

  4. Ben

    Could be worse. In Windsor they’ll tow your registered non-op vehicles from your own property! Is that legal?

    November 27th, 2012 4:14 pm

  5. GaelG

    My fiance’s work trailer was also tagged yesterday!!! Like Fred’s experience above, this trailer is used almost EVERY DAY. He a general contractor and uses this for work! Again, it’s moved almost EVERY DAY, so why the tag and the harrassment?

    If the local Patrol person really paid attention to what vehicles are parked on the street abandoned versus what may be a kids’ car or an additional vehicle for the family or even a boat parked out front for a few days waiting for the weekend in order to use it, then the Patrol person would really know what vehicles are parked indefinitely and therefore an eyesore. Yes, if my vehicle had flat tires and weeds growing out of it I’d want it towed too!

    I think our local Police Dept needs to spend their time on more serious problems!!

    November 29th, 2012 9:52 am

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