Nearly 14K abandoned cars reportedly dumped in Oakland over 6 months, prompting tow bill controversy

A report obtained exclusively by the I-Team shows just how bad the problem is.

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, March 21, 2024
Nearly 14K abandoned cars reportedly dumped in Oakland over 6 months
Nearly 14,000 abandoned cars were reportedly dumped in Oakland over a six-month period, which prompted a tow bill controversy.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A stolen car gets dumped on your property in Oakland, now you have to pay for it to be towed.

City officials are overwhelmed with the number of stolen, abandoned vehicles dumped across the city. A report obtained exclusively by the I-Team shows just how bad the problem is.

You see them everywhere - residential streets, business districts, even on the train tracks. Residents tell us they're blocking access to their homes, businesses, and even entrances to local schools.

INTERACTIVE: Take a look at the ABC7 Neighborhood Safety Tracker

According to a new report from Oakland's Department of Transportation, 13,856 abandoned cars were reported in Oakland over a six-month period last year.

There's so many the city is leasing space just to have somewhere to put them.

The I-Team went for a ride-along with Councilmember Noel Gallo and his staff to see the volume on the streets.

"This lot here is where they take the abandoned cars, you see the guy towing them," said Gallo. "They're stacked on top of each other."

Within 15 minutes of our drive, Gallo's staff assistant Preston Turner who tracks these reports daily, pointed out 25 abandoned cars within a couple mile radius. Within 30 minutes, that figure jumped to 50 abandoned cars.

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The volume was eye-opening. According to Gallo, the problem has tripled on the streets so far this year. Why?

"We don't have the space to locate them," he told ABC7.

The city's storage lots for abandoned cars are packed and expensive. Gallo says the city is paying close to $1 million annually for storage alone.

On Tuesday, Oakland City Council unanimously voted to approve a measure that aims to tackle the issue. The proposal identifies available funding for the city to hire multiple tow companies and utilize Caltrans' vacant lots for storage.

Oak DOT's Vehicle Enforcement Unit is also hiring an additional 15 parking control technicians that will be focused on responding to reports of abandoned and stolen vehicles. The I-Team was told the technicians are still in training and are expected to be on the streets within a couple of months.

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But residents say they're still fed up.

"Some park in front of the gate," said business owner Bruce Vong. "I can't even leave - and if you intervene they'll shoot you."

Councilman Gallo and Turner responded to complaints of stolen vehicles blocking access to a nearby grade school. They say parents or teachers had nowhere to park.

"It's just not fair," said Turner. "We report them, they clean it up, and they're back like ants."

Reporting abandoned and stolen cars has also become an issue.

"The whole block reports it," said Bernadette Burton, an Oakland resident. "But they say there's nothing they can do."

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Business owners in Oakland describe going to work like it's a "war zone" - battling consistent waves of violent crime.

"They just say no," ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"Yes," said Burton while nodding.

OPD will no longer respond to reports of abandoned vehicles or stolen cars unless it's parked in front of your driveway and you can't get into your house. Otherwise, the Oakland Department of Transportation is the agency authorized to respond. Residents are asked to report these situations to 311.

But it often takes awhile - residents have to wait for the car to be reported, cited, and then in some cases get stuck with the tow bill.

"It happened to the assistant in my office," said Gallo, adding she had to pay close to $500. "Why, if you steal my car, do I have to pay?"

A valid question that city officials are currently discussing.

Service requests across Oakland

A new report found abandoned vehicles are towering over other service requests made across Oakland from June through November last year.

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A breakdown from your Council District

Here is a breakdown of the requests council districts are getting for abandoned automobiles, homeless encampments, and sideshows.

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ABC7's Lindsey Feingold contributed to this report.

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