Dayton’s blight problem isn’t limited to abandoned homes. Abandoned automobiles and junk cars are just as vexing for some residents and property owners.
Since 2016, the city has received more reports of abandoned vehicles on the street than it has about open abandoned structures through its customer service mobile app, according to city data obtained by this newspaper.
In 2016, the Dayton Police Department checked on about 3,650 abandoned vehicle complaints and issued 1,633 warnings to vehicle owners — and 2017 is on track to surpass those numbers by year’s end, city data show.
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Abandoned vehicles are eyesores and invite the same kinds of trouble and nuisance activities as abandoned homes, including vandalism, arson, pests and rodent infestation and trash dumping, according to some legal experts and citizens.
“It is an issue because it creates blight,” said Mike Schommer, president of the Walnut Hills Neighborhood Association, who reported two abandoned cars earlier this week.
Abandoned vehicles, according to the city, are cars, trucks and other automobiles that are left on public property for 48 hours or longer without the permission of the chief of police.
Abandoned vehicles also include motor vehicles left on private property for more than 72 hours without permission of the property owner.
The city contracts with Sandy’s Towing to remove and store abandoned vehicles.
The city also tows “junk motor vehicles,” which by definition are at least three years old and extensively damaged or inoperable due to missing parts.
Abandoned vehicles on the street are the third most common type of citizens’ reports made on the city’s Dayton Delivers customer app, trailing only requests for bulk pick-ups and pothole repairs.
There have been 458 reports of abandoned vehicles this year, up from 379 last year.
Abandoned and junked cars hurt citizens’ quality-of-life, perceptions that neighborhoods are safe and can take up valuable parking spots, said Schommer, who has reported more than half a dozen abandoned vehicles in the Walnut Hills neighborhood, which is primarily east of Wayne Avenue and south of Wyoming Street.
“Abandoned vehicles can lead to other problems … it’s very much the broken window effect,” Schommer said, referring to the policing theory that once disorder begins — with vandalism or other low level crimes — it attracts more serious criminal activities.
Criminals who see abandoned vehicles may infer that neighbors aren’t paying close attention to their neighborhoods, ultimately concluding that criminal opportunities exist, Schommer said.
The city’s Dayton Delivers app, launched in 2014 has made it much easier and convenient for citizens to report abandoned and junked vehicles and other nuissance issues, he said.
Police also field complaints other ways.
Through late September, police already have checked on 3,362 abandoned vehicle complaints and issued 1,467 warnings to vehicle owners.
About 80 percent of vehicles are moved by the time they are eligible to be towed, the data show.
However, police have ordered 330 vehicles towed this year and 388 last year. Few vehicles that end up at the towing yard are released to their owners, the data indicate.