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Petaluma police crack down on abandoned cars


Spiderwebs in wheel wells and weeds growing around the tires were dead giveaways.

The red Honda Accord had been parked on a Petaluma street for well past the three-day legal limit. It had expired registration tags, and storm water was backing up behind the tires when Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons arrived.

Petaluma Police Officer Paul Accornero explains to a vehicle owner, who refused to give his name, why his car is being towed and how to retrieve it, while Roger Miller prepares to tow the automobile on Carleton Drive in Petaluma on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Petaluma police were doing a sweep of abandoned vehicles throughout the city Wednesday. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

“It’s been sitting there for, like, ever,” said Chelsea Falcone, a neighbor who came out as Lyons ticketed the car. “It hasn’t moved in at least a couple months.”

Lyons stuck bright yellow and orange notices on the car’s windows.

The Honda is one of hundreds of vehicles throughout the city that have been abandoned or otherwise left on the street longer than the law allows. On Wednesday, Petaluma police fanned out in an effort to scour every city street to find them and either warn owners or tow violators.

“We continue to get a lot of complaints. We’re trying to keep on top of it,” Lyons said.

Residents unhappy with unlicensed, unregistered, stolen, abandoned or inoperable vehicles sitting dormant on their streets — or RVs, trailers or boats simply being stored in shared spaces — are increasingly urging police to step up enforcement. Last month, police received 105 calls about abandoned vehicles on city streets, Lyons said, bringing this year’s total so far to 1,140 complaints.

The department conducts such sweeps twice a year. In July, 263 vehicles were tagged with courtesy notices alerting owners that the vehicles would be towed if not moved within three days.

On Wednesday, officers had no trouble finding violations throughout town. By afternoon, 123 courtesy notices had been issued. Another 84 vehicles were ticketed for violations including expired tags, blocking a sidewalk or not displaying proper licensing. Four more vehicles with long-expired registration tags were towed.

In three days, community service officers and parking enforcement officers will return to check on all citations and warnings and will begin towing vehicles that remain.

Another car Lyons encountered was parked in a cul-de-sac under a cloth car cover, cobwebs spreading beneath it. Bruce Barkdoll said the car belongs to his brother, who usually drives a company vehicle.

“Oh, I’ll be sure to tell him,” he told Lyons after being alerted to the three-day street-parking limit.

“The leaves back up and the storm water can’t drain,” Lyons pointed out. “The street sweepers have to get through.”

“I can totally appreciate that,” Barkdoll said, moving a neighbor’s tether-ball stand that was also blocking leaves and water.

In 2003, the city looked at banning motor homes, RVs and boats from being parked on city streets after complaints of growing neighborhood clutter. The City Council backed off in the face of heated opposition from RV owners, and instead tightened enforcement and increased fines.

Police note that residents with inoperable vehicles can donate them to nonprofit groups such as the Polly Klaas Foundation. Police will also tow inoperable vehicles at no expense. Call 778-4496 for more information.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

3 Responses to “Petaluma police crack down on abandoned cars”

  1. Snarky says:

    A “crackdown” by police would not ever be necessary if only the police were doing their jobs to begin with in an equally applied, daily effort.

    Speaking of police, when will the Press Democrat IDENTIFY the local cops involved in the illegal election material sent out against Gary Wysocky?
    They were found in violation of law and fined.. yet not identified. Odd. The PD identifies every other person caught in illegal acts.

    And are there any updates on the local Santa Rosa Junior College cop just arrested for theft of public funds ??

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  2. John says:

    And people wonder why California is screwed up, nanny state looking for any avenue to generate revenues to pay for their lazy pathetic public employee system and their no good for nothing tokens sucking off the backs who choose to work or all those damn illegal immigrants sucking off the system as well.

    I can’t wait for the big one to occur and sit back from a distance and see California slip away into the ocean… that would a good reason for a great party… liberals and their free loading tokens and illegals disappearing…

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  3. GAJ says:

    I can definitely see how out of registration/abandoned cars could be a problem but there should be exceptions for registered as operational vehicles that get little use.

    I’m retired now and my 18 year old sports car gets all of 100 miles per month but it is in tip top shape and has been in front of my Santa Rosa home for weeks at a stretch since I stopped working in 2008. We mostly use my wife’s sedan.

    I have a one car garage that has numerous bicycles, two motorcycles, lawnmower, washer, dryer and storage in it.

    Luckily for me my car is very small so I have now squeezed it into my garage for the winter…but if it was slightly larger, and I lived in Petaluma, I’d simply move it a few feet every three days I guess.

    But perhaps moving a car 20 feet every 3 days won’t fly in Petaluma.

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