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Police plead for patience on abandoned cars in Colorado Springs

September 12, 2017 Updated: September 13, 2017 at 7:32 am
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The Colorado Springs Police Department's impound lot is where abandoned, crashed or evidential vehicles are sent to await being sold or reclaimed. The lot was designed to hold 1,200 vehicles but is currently over capacity at 1,308.

Amid complaints about abandoned and rundown cars being left on Colorado Springs streets for weeks to a year, police ask for patience.

The department still is removing these vehicles, but its 12-acre impound lot is over capacity, and officers are handling higher-priority calls first, spokesman Lt. Howard Black said. The cars will be towed, he said, but it could take longer than normal.

"Please still call (to report abandoned cars)," Black encouraged.

Rachel Beisel said she's tired of calling.

She said she has talked to police several times over the past few months about two abandoned cars clogging the busy street near Garden of the Gods where she lives, but nothing has been done.

One of the vehicles has been sidelined with a missing wheel for more than a year, Beisel said. The other has expired tags and has been sitting for months.

Police did ticket one of the vehicles Sunday night after Beisel called to report her neighbor, who she said was threatening her for complaining about the vehicles. The car had not been moved as of Monday, Beisel said.

The Colorado Springs Police Department's impound lot is designed to hold 1,200 cars, but currently is above capacity at 1,308. 

She fears the vehicles may have made her street a target for criminal activity, such as the attempted car break-in reported there last weekend.

"This is more than an eyesore; this is a threat to our safety and security and shows a severe lack of care for our community," Beisel said.

As a 25-year, retired Colorado law enforcement officer, Brad Withrow said he understands the community's concern. The impound lot supervisor recognizes that the vehicles can pose a danger to kids, serve as housing for homeless and be a general eyesore, but he said the department is working on it.

"We are still taking them," Withrow said.

The problem is not new. The impound lot is pushed to capacity several times a year, every year, Black said. At times, police have had to turn away any vehicles not tied to a criminal case, but it hasn't come to that this year, thanks to a 5.3-acre overflow lot lent by the city, he said.

Talks about permanently expanding the lot are "in the mix," Black said, but as with everything else, it comes down to funding. Police Chief Pete Carey already has said the priority over the next 10 years is hiring 100 more officers to fill out a thinning blue line.

In the meantime, the department is looking at other options to make room in a lot designed to hold 1,200 vehicles but already at 1,308.

One way is to hold an auction.

The department's monthly junking auction was Tuesday, when Withrow said he expected 130 vehicles to be sent to local junkyards.

Saturday, about 140 vehicles that are titled and still in good condition will be sold, he said.

Police have had to get creative this summer when placing vehicles in their impound lot. With 100 more vehicles over its 1,200 capacity, police are having to create parking spaces wherever they can to make room for new vehicles.  

Buyers can register for the auction starting at 7 a.m., Saturday, at the impound lot, 2725 E. Las Vegas St. Bidding starts at 9, he said.

The auctions provide immediate relief, but Withrow said he doesn't expect the space to last, especially considering how many abandoned cars await towing in the city.

"We'll have room for a little while, but when you have 100 cars on the streets waiting to come in, this will fill up fast," Withrow said.

Another way to make room is to weed through vehicles being held for evidence, which is the secured lot's main function.

The department recently formed a task force to comb through the 677 cars being held as a part of a crash or criminal case to see if any can be removed, Withrow said.

"About 100 cars have been here for five years plus," Withrow said. "Some will be here forever, until (their cases are) solved."

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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