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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Abandoned Auto Update

In the past year, PBOT has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of abandoned cars and other vehicles reported by Portlanders. Last year, we received 27,000 abandoned vehicle reports. Already by June 30th of this year, we have received over 14,000 reports. By contrast, in all of 2012, we received just 7,000 reports.

This increase in the number of reported vehicles has unfortunately led to longer response times on the part of PBOT Vehicle Inspection Program Officers. Currently, it takes PBOT staff 10 to 14 days to inspect a vehicle that has been reported as abandoned. We are sympathetic to the public’s concerns that abandoned vehicles represent a significant nuisance and detract from the quality of life in our neighborhoods. That is why we are doubling the number of PBOT Enforcement Officers dedicated to investigating prohibited and abandoned autos, as well as launching technology solutions that will create efficiencies in case management. By increasing our staffing levels and creating better and more efficient ways to do our work, our goal is to respond to abandoned auto reports within 5 business days.

Occupied vehicles

In addition to the increased reports of abandoned vehicles, PBOT has also experienced a significant increase in the number of occupied vehicles reported by residents or encountered by the bureau’s Inspection Officers.

It is important for the public to understand that the handling of these cases require different tools and approaches than those used for unoccupied abandoned vehicles. One of the key differences is that state law (ORS 811.195) prohibits towing of vehicles that are occupied. Also in cases where there is personal property in or around the vehicle, Inspection Officers legally do not have the authority to remove or otherwise handle this property and there are separate procedures and responsible parties for cleaning the public right-of-way.

For these reasons, PBOT Inspection Officers follow different procedures when encountering occupied vehicles. PBOT’s approach is to balance the needs of people living in vehicles who may be in need of social services or other support services with the desire of residents to address safety and neighborhood livability issues that may be associated with these vehicles. To achieve this balance, PBOT works with other bureaus and regional agencies in managing cases of occupied vehicles. 

If there is an immediate or imminent threat to public health or safety, the Portland Police will be called to address the situation. The Police Bureau is able to tow vehicles in very limited circumstances, specifically to address any immediate safety and health threats to the community created by a vehicle. These are known as Community Caretaking tows.

If there isn’t an immediate public safety or public health concern, but instead a concern about the vehicle inhabitants, or the vehicle is creating nuisance or livability issues, PBOT’s Inspection Officers will refer the case to One Point of Contact, who then coordinates with social service providers. One Point of Contact will also coordinate the clean-up of trash and belongings around the vehicle.

For more information about our abandoned auto program, please scroll down. 

Contact the Abandoned Auto Program

Abandoned Autos by the Numbers

Will I Have to Re-Submit a Tow Complaint

Abandoned Auto Next Steps

Abandoned Autos by the Numbers

The PBOT Vehicle Inspection Program currently receives more than 100 new abandoned auto cases per day.  In response, PBOT Inspection Officers conduct on-site investigations to determine whether the reported vehicles meet the abandoned or prohibited vehicle City Code criteria

 If criteria are met, PBOT will issue a citation to the vehicle in question and post a 72-hour tow warning notice.  If the vehicle remains and is not occupied, following the identified warning period, PBOT Inspection Officers will then request that the vehicle be towed from the public street by our tow partners.

The current number of abandoned autos cases under investigation includes more than 1,500 locations.

The wait time from online report submitted to initial case investigation is currently 10 to 14 days but we are working to reduce the wait time to 5 business days.

Will I Have to Re-Submit a Tow Complaint

As previously noted, PBOT Inspection Officers posts a 72-hour tow warning if a vehicle or RV is determined to be abandoned or prohibited.   If the vehicle remains and in unoccupied, following the identified warning period, PBOT Officers will then request that the vehicle be towed from the public right-of-way by our tow partners. 

Because of the backlog of cases and the tow warning expiration after 30 days, PBOT is currently re-citing previously reported complaints, so please do not re-report abandoned RVs that have already been reported since this will only add to the workload of the PBOT Inspection Officers and significantly slow down overall response time.  The number to call to check on the status of a previously reported abandoned autos complaint (not to re-report) is 503.823.6814. 

Next Steps

PBOT has been working hard to resolve the current abandoned auto and prohibited vehicle backlog.  Besides adding staff, PBOT is taking additional steps to reduce our response time. These include:

PBOT has expanded towing capacity by executing emergency contracts with additional tow companies to assist in towing and storing additional vehicles, and now is able to tow vehicles more quickly.

PBOT has streamlined the report intake process with an online reporting portal. Online reports are automatically uploaded to the case management system and reduce staff time dedicated to creating cases.  To report a prohibited or abandoned vehicle case:  https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/71693

 PBOT has asked the City’s One Point of Contact Portland Program to expedite review and, if appropriate, coordinate the clean-up of areas most impacted by the current abandoned RV removal (tow) backlog.  The One Point of Contact website: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/toolkit/70039

PBOT staff are reminding complainants that all issues relating to public safety should be directed to the Portland Police Bureau either via their non-emergency line at 503.823.3333, or by calling 9-1-1 if it constitutes a public safety emergency.  PBOT only has jurisdiction to investigate a reported vehicle, and not to manage safety issues.