There’s been at least a 75 percent reduction in complaints about RVs and other oversize vehicles since the city implemented a new ordinance that bans storing such vehicles on city streets.
The Dalles Police Officer Chris Simonds said, “The calls are tapering because the problem areas are no longer the problem areas.” He is the department’s NEAT (Neighborhood Enforcement Action Team) officer.
The biggest problem area was on West Seventh Street between Walnut and Snipes streets. “This used to be something where we had people calling us every day.”
He said, “The last time I checked, it was completely cleared and people have taken substantial steps to let us know they appreciate that.”
Simonds stressed the ordinance covers not only RVs, but also boats, trailers and any vehicle that meets the oversized vehicle dimensions in the ordinance.
He said the complaints fell into two broad categories: liveability issues in terms of dilapidated RVs that people were living in and creating a mess around, and newer RVs that were parked in residential areas and were creating visibility problems for motorists.
“Both impacts seemingly have been satisfactorily addressed based on the feedback from the public,” Simonds said. “It’s an ongoing process.”
A Hood River towing company contracted by the city has hauled off four RVs. The city budgeted $20,000 for such work, and an averaged-sized RV costs about $2,500 to remove, Simonds said.
When the new ordinance rolled out over the summer, city officers papered residential areas with about 100 door hangers telling owners of RVs parked in streets that it was not allowed.
The vast majority had not generated any complaints, Simonds said. But officers put warnings on them to let the owners know of the new ordinance requirements.
For RVs that generate complaints, the first step is the doorhanger, then five days later a tow sticker is put on the vehicle, and 24 hours after that, the vehicle is towed.
Abandoned cars are a different matter and don’t fall under the oversized vehicle ordinance. But abandoned cars are the number one complaint in Oregon towns when citizens are asked what the police can do to make communities better, Simonds said.
Abandoned car complaints are typically not self-initiated by officers. Those are complaint-driven.
“There is a very significant difference between an abandoned vehicle and a stored vehicle,” Simonds said. “Everybody calls them abandoned vehicles. The abandoned vehicle is missing parts, it’s up on blocks, it is obviously unable to be driven, it’s inoperable.”
That type of vehicle would get a sticker on it and would get towed within about a week. Such vehicles account for only 10 percent, or less, of all calls on vehicles reported as “abandoned,” he said.
The rest are what’s actually called a stored vehicle. Such vehicles are usually in working condition, and for whatever reason the owner has parked it and left it there, sometimes for months, he said. Those are handled differently.
If they have a valid, current registration, the officer marks the current position of the vehicle. They go back five days later to check, and if it hasn’t moved it gets a $20 parking ticket for violating the city ordinance banning storage of cars on city streets. Each day thereafter that it isn’t moved, another ticket is issued. Typically, after a few tickets, “they get the point and move the vehicle,” Simonds said.
After five unpaid parking tickets accumulate, the vehicle can be towed.
And if its not an obviously abandoned vehicle, they are given the benefit of the doubt and treated as a stored vehicle, said The Dalles Police Capt. Jamie Carrico.
The officer who takes the initial call is responsible for seeing the process through and issuing any followup tickets, and then checking to see if they are unpaid. That process from the initial marks on the vehicle position to getting towed would be at least two and a half weeks, Simonds said.
Towing of vehicles doesn’t happen all that often, said Carrico.
Abandoned vehicle complaints in the city hit 300 in 2018, dropped to 270 in 2018, but are already at 272 as of Oct. 15 this year.