• Center for Problem oriented policing

Summary of Responses to Abandoned Vehicles

The table below summarizes the responses to abandoned vehicles, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Removing Abandoned Vehicles
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Identifying and reporting abandoned vehiclesIt distinguishes vehicles parked or left temporarily from those abandoned...it is accompanied by specific descriptions of vehicle condition and component damageTime interval and location are important. Vehicles that present immediate traffic hazards, or those left in areas where parking is clearly not permitted, may be considered abandoned. Also distinguish stolen cars that thieves abandon
2Coordinating with other agenciesDepartments of sanitation and streets also monitor cars illegally parked and may notice signs of abandonment before police patrol...interagency protocols or descriptions are clear and widely sharedIt depends on agency missions, and on how frequently streets are cleaned
3Removing derelict vehicles as quickly as possibleVehicles that are obviously damaged or derelict may attract vandals or other undesirable users...awareness of the problem is widespread, and people are easily able to recognize signs of abandonmentLocation is important. Cars presenting immediate hazards or that are burnt-out should be removed as quickly as possible. Abandoned vehicles signal and contribute to neighborhood decay
4Establishing routines for long-term parking facilitiesAbandoned vehicles are more easily concealed among other cars parked at long-term facilities like airports. Regular inventories are required to recognize out-of-place cars...parking facilities are subject to regular inventory, making long-term, out-of-place cars more easily recognizedVehicle condition and location—for example, very old junkers parked in expensive short-term lots—may offer clues. Cars may be towed pending owner identification
5Cleaning up in abandoned vehicle "sweeps"It signals that the problem is being taken seriously, and it can be economical...a lot of vehicles are concentrated, abandoned cars have accumulated, and contracts can be issued with towing and salvage companiesIt may be combined with neighborhood cleanups. It can be scheduled as an annual or periodic effort in less-populated areas where legitimate disposal is less convenient
6Using community volunteersIdentifying, tagging, and monitoring possible abandoned vehicles is time-consuming and might be set aside as a low-priority activity. Citizen volunteers increase monitoring, and area residents have stakes in neighborhood quality of life...citizen volunteer programs exist in police or other departments, and abandoned cars are considered a quality-of-life problem in urban areasIt may be combined with other community policing initiatives, or started as an initial community policing activity. Local businesses may also support it. It may be combined with periodic cleanup campaigns
7Publicizing the problemReporting possible abandoned vehicles requires that people know what to look for, and that junk cars are problems. It publicizes collateral problems such as hazards to children and criminal uses of abandoned cars...reporting can be made easier via websites or other initiatives, and it is coupled with initiatives to collect abandoned cars. It may attract more support if combined with other cleanup effortsDistinguish old cars from abandoned cars. Some viewed as abandoned may be used as sources for spare parts; this should be examined in the problem-assessment stage
Preventing Vehicles From Being Abandoned
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
8Making legitimate disposal cheaper and easierIt offers a less costly and legal route to dispose of unwanted vehicles; low-income people are more likely to drive older cars and less able to afford disposal fees. Illegal dumping generally increases if legal disposal becomes more difficult...free pickup and disposal, or convenient pickup, is availableIt may cost more in rural or remote areas, but these places will be most in need of more-convenient disposal
9Using amnesty campaignsLike periodic bulk-trash pickup, periodic free disposal targets accumulations of junk cars...it is widely publicized and offered regularlyIt may require contracting with towing and scrap companies
10Promoting junk- car collection servicesThe increased value of scrap metal has made junk cars more valuable; it appears to be a growing market as private firms contract with local towing companies...services contain no hidden fees, services are widely publicized, and there is information on local websitesIt is more difficult to recover cars from remote areas, so services may add collection fees. It may be possible to negotiate pickups in connection with sweeps
11Using publicity to promote legitimate disposalIt appeals to public understanding of the harms caused by abandoned vehicles. There is some element of shaming...it is coupled with information on how to dispose of junk carsCombine this response with the promotion of car-collection services
12Increasing the threshold value for scrapping vehiclesIt reduces the number of low-cost vehicles available for purchase; scrapped vehicles cannot return to streets to be abandoned again later...the value of scrap metal is high—it has increased since 2001—and the market for scrapped vehicles is readily availableIt requires cooperation from auto auction operations and dealers
13Increasing minimum bids at car auctionsVery low bids mean people buy junk cars more often and later abandon them. Increasing bids reduces sales of junkers...it is coupled with response 12It requires cooperation from auto auction operations or from some authority that regulates auction terms
14Working with low-end used-car dealersThey may be a source for very low-cost, unreliable cars that are later abandoned. It signals to dealers that their role is of interest...police have a routine role in inspecting auto dealers, and there is legitimate scrutiny of used-car practicesConsult with auto dealer associations
15Adjusting rules for parking and street-cleaningIt increases the routine monitoring of streets, which reduces the ability to conceal abandoned cars among legally parked cars...the rules are implemented in urban areas where on-street parking is the norm, and parking-enforcement and street-cleaning personnel can easily arrange to have vehicles tagged/towedIt acts to regularly churn parked cars, making those not moved more visible and subject to collection. It requires the capacity to monitor and tow cars in violation
16Securing dump sitesIt removes access to places where people dump vehicles...access can be readily restricted, or access is limited to a narrow road or gateIt requires property owners' cooperation. It might be costly. It might be combined with CCTV monitoring
17Assisting property owners at sites where people dump carsIt educates property owners to recognize, respond to, and prevent vehicle abandonment; vehicles are detected and removed earlier...parking lots or other facilities cannot be secured, long-term parking is a norm, and it is possible to keep a list of authorized usersIt requires property owners' cooperation. It may be combined with other initiatives in multiunit parking facilities, such as CCTV
18Assessing cost-of-disposal feesIt produces a revenue stream to offset the costs of handling abandoned vehicles...local registration is in place, and it is a supplement to local registration feesCost-sharing with manufacturers, as in Europe, is not likely in the United States. A previous statewide fund in California d evolved to local governments
19Anticipating seasonal abandonmentIt provides increased publicity or junk-car collection capacity during times when abandonment is more likely...seasonal patterns of abandonment are evident—resort areas or places with large numbers of students are examples—and an added capacity for collecting cars can be readily deployedIt is similar to planning for natural disasters, where a lot of vehicles may be damaged or destroyed
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
20Increasing fines for vehicle abandonmentIt requires identifying and locating vehicle owners It can be very time-consuming. Police may locate previous owners who have sold the vehicle, or they may not locate any owner. It is very resource-intensive
21Increasing fees to collect unwanted vehiclesIt is likely to increase abandonment by increasing costs of legitimate disposal Locate private-sector towing companies and scrap dealers who will collect vehicles at lower costs