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How Abandoned Cars Encourage Crime in Oakland

Vacant lots and long stretches of sidewalk in Oakland, Ca., have been turned into combination dumping grounds for abandoned cars and camper vans, chairs, soda bottles, pet carriers and other litter, reports Governing. Many abandoned vehicles provide inadequate and unsafe shelters for the homeless. Abandoned vehicles account for more than 17,000 cars, and many of them occupy parking spaces in a city that has grown 10 percent in the past decade. Joe DeVries, a deputy city administrator said that only three police service technicians were responsible for all the abandoned cars in the city. "A partially operable abandoned vehicle invites crime and blight," DeVries said. “Some of them are full of garbage and they attract rats and vermin. It sends the neighborhood a message that we don’t care, and that’s the wrong message to send.”

Residents say abandoned cars, along with other social ills, disproportionately affect Black and brown neighborhoods. Taylor says that responsibility to the Department of Transportation should help, but the city also needs to address the cause of those abandoned cars. Keisha Henderson, who lives about a mile from a vacant lot, has seen fights and shootings occur because of items in cars being fought over. Analysts see the situation as a variation of the broken-windows theory of policing: if you tolerate small crimes, big crimes may follow. Accountability methods include tracking the VIN number of the original owners and penalizing them if they have not reported it stolen. Residents have taken it into their own hands of cleaning their neighborhoods up by introducing beautifying methods, such as planting trees and adding murals.


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