LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – It happens, on average, 13 times a day. Somebody calls Metro Call to complain about an abandoned car that’s been sitting for weeks or months.
“I had noticed this Winnebago sized camper,” Tom Zoeller said, “and it had been in a wreck.”
Zoeller was a wreck over someone else’s wreck.
“It was just sitting along the side of Taylor Boulevard,” Zoeller said, “rear end of it out in the lane of traffic."
So he called Metro Call about the abandoned vehicle.
“I reported it,” Zoeller said. “I thought it was a public safety concern.”
He kept calling.
"I expected it to be removed. It wasn’t, and they told me that it was considered a low priority,” Zoeller said.
Then he called me.
“The Metro Call person also told me that they haven’t had a place to put vehicles like that since October of 2017,” Zoeller said. “That just boggled my mind.”
I watched the vehicle sit on busy Taylor Boulevard for almost a month before it was towed and I wondered how many more are out there. So I drove the streets of Louisville, from the west side to Hurstbourne Lane.
I recorded dozens of wrecked or abandoned vehicles littering the city in just a few hours. Some were still sitting long after being stickered for removal. Many involved in accidents were just hauled off to the side.
While the city has been dealing with an abandoned house problem for years, the abandoned vehicle problem is blowing up.
“Last summer is when it really came to my attention,” Metro Council member Kevin Kramer said, “that cars were being left at accident scenes, moving them as best they could, out of both lanes of traffic, but there was no place to take them. The tow lot was full.”
Police said they were handcuffed by a law that required them to have a title on cars up to 10 years old sitting in the tow lot in order to scrap them.
“So we passed an ordinance last year that made it easier for police to scrap some of the vehicles in order to move them through the tow lot more quickly,” Kramer said. “That seemed to alleviate the pressure, until a couple months ago and now we’re starting to see it come back again.”
Kramer said Metro Council came up with the money for another tow lot.
“When the mayor came over to council and said ‘it’s a cash problem,’ we said ‘how much do you need?’” Kramer said. “There’s a million dollars. $973,000 is still sitting in that account. And we don’t have a tow lot."
I contacted the mayor’s office for comment on the problem. I was directed to LMPD, who says a quarter of the tow lot is filled with long term holds for court cases. And the rest are averaging a 60 day stay before they are able to get them out of here.
“I think the law change last summer has got us going in the right direction,” LMPD Major Dave Allen said. “But we’re just so far behind. We may not see them all get cleared up in the next two or three or six months.”
Our examination of complaints to Metro Call for abandoned cars shows they’ve more than doubled in the past six years, from 2,274 in 2012 to 4,813 in 2018. LMPD said they towed 20,000 cars last year, which is 2,000 more than the year before.
“Why that’s become a problem, I don’t know,” Allen said. “I would never consider just abandoning my car, even if you’re done with it you can take it to a scrap yard, they’ll come get it for you with their own tow truck, give you few hundred bucks for it.”
So the tow lot is full. The streets are full of vehicles waiting to get in. And the million bucks budgeted to help the problem are still waiting.
"If that’s really the case, something’s way out of whack in town,” Zoeller said.
“At some point, I don’t know how long you be patient,” Kramer said.