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City and county agencies explain why abandoned cars sit on roadways in El Paso County for so long

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) - Cars off to the side of the road or along the shoulder during your daily commute, while running errands, or during travels for the weekend are a common sight in Southern Colorado.

From the start of February, KRDO13 found multiple abandoned vehicles along Interstate 25 and others on Cheyenne and North Union Boulevards. Four of those vehicles had been removed in just a matter of days, however others took longer.

KRDO13 spoke with the agencies responsible for caring for these vehicles within Colorado Springs and El Paso County, to ask why these vehicles see delays in being cleaned off our roadways.

The Colorado Springs Police Department Community Service Division oversees any vehicles left along Interstate 25 and highways within the city limits. KRDO13 asked why some vehicles see delays in being removed.

"Well, on the Interstate, you know, again, if it's a hazard, we're going to we're going to get it removed. If it is off the shoulder, and not causing a hazard, it does take us at least 72 hours, maybe longer. We try to tag it." explained Vanessa Jones the Community Service Unit Manager for Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD).

Generally speaking, KRDO13 found that when a police or city agency finds an abandoned car, they'll tag it with tape or ribbon, to mark that they're aware of that vehicle's status. Then for the next 48 to 72 hours, those agencies will try and get the car's owner to move it themselves.

"We want to give them a chance to take care of that vehicle. and in some circumstances, it does take longer because, you know, we have a large amount of calls for service," added Jones.

Jones says that CSPD's Community Service Officers say that they placed 710 tags on cars along city highways and Interstate 25, but had to tow less than 10% of them in 2023.

But, why the push to get the owner to remove it? The city says it comes down to saving its residents' tax dollars.

The City of Colorado Springs' Neighborhood Services is in charge of abandoned cars within the city neighborhood, and the main roads, boulevards, and avenues.

Neighborhood Services took over the responsibility from CSPD in March of 2023. Before that, the city says that CSPD was towing upwards of 290 cars per month, whether in an accident or crime-related vehicles or were simply abandoned.

Now in just 9 months of taking the reins in 2023, Neighborhood Services says that they handled over 3,000 complaints for abandoned vehicles within the city, but only had to tow 40 of them, saving a significant amount of money in tow fees.

"Putting in the effort upfront to get the vehicle owner to solve the problem is extremely cost-effective for the city," said Mitch Hammes, the Manager of Neighborhood Services.

Neighborhood Services does admit though, that when owners of those vehicles don't cooperate, it leads to those cars sitting for a bit before they'll take action.

"Generally speaking, if it's still there within two weeks of us being notified, that's when we're taking possession and towing that vehicle," explained Hammes.

Meanwhile, any vehicle that is found in unincorporated El Paso County falls under Colorado State Patrol (CSP) jurisdiction.

Data from January 2022 through January 2024, shows that CSP "red-tagged" nearly 1,288 vehicles that were on the side of the road, along dozens of miles of Interstate 25, Highway 24, and Highway 115 within El Paso County.

A red tag indicates that a vehicle is: Abandoned, involved in an accident or crime, or was left at that spot following an arrest, at the request of the detained person.

They use the same 48-hour rule, to track, and ultimately tow those cars. Data shows that CSP only had to tow 24 of those near 1,300 tagged vehicles. Master Trooper Gary Cutler, with CSP, says that traffic for the day, or their priorities as a statewide agency will take precedence first.

"Then it depends on kind of how the situation is going for the day.  if you have a lot of crashes that we're covering or we have arrests or we have other incidents that have happened,  those again, are going to be the priority…. so this is sometimes why you'll see a car that might end up being there a little bit longer than it should," explains Cutler.

All three agencies say that they need the help of drivers, in finding where these abandoned vehicles may be, to get the process started sooner. They ask that if you see a car that isn't tagged with colored tape, to reach out to your local law enforcement agency, preferably on their non-emergency line.

Those agencies also advice that if you're put in the position of having to leave your car on the side of a road for any number of reasons, to let a local law enforcement agency know that you're working on a solution, to smoothen the process and avoid an unwanted towing of your vehicle.

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Tyler Cunnington

Tyler is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about him here.


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