Great Falls

Feb 20, 2014 1:18 AM by Tara Grimes (tara@krtv.com)

Great Falls Police Department cracking down on abandoned vehicles

GREAT FALLS - The Great Falls Police Department is cracking down on abandoned or junk vehicles left on city streets for more than five days.

The Department said it currently receives three to five calls a day regarding campers, abandoned or junk vehicles.

Resident Jim Super has seen it first-hand. Just around the block from his home, he said one car was left in the same spot for five years.

"They become eyesores," Super said. "It's not good for your area, for people to be driving through the city and going around your area and they see an old vehicle that hasn't run for a long time."

Between January and October 2013, the Department said it dealt with 250 abandoned vehicles.

However, without the resources or time, it was one of the Department's lowest priorities.

Now the Department's Volunteers in Police Service program is taking over.

"It's important because it attracts crime," Great Falls Police Department Volunteer Coordinator Samantha Huffman said. "The whole broken window theory is that, if something is not well maintained that people are just going to increase the crime in that area. So we'd really like to nip that in the bud and take care of vehicles before they're a problem"

Since October, volunteers have helped tow nearly 25 cars and resolve more than 240 of them with their owners.

Four days a week, four hours at a time, volunteers check up on vehicles called in by residents.

Under state law, volunteers can tag vehicles that have been left on public property for more than five days. Under a city ordinance, they can tag vehicles that are deemed junk or abandoned. Both include campers and RV's.

Once the vehicle is tagged, owners have 10 days to get it into compliance or file an appeal. If they don't, the vehicle can be towed away at the owner's expense.

"We definitely take our time, assess the vehicle," Huffman said. "If we can make contact with the owner, we're going to be like 'hey we received a complaint, can you do something to take care of it?"

With those volunteers hard at work, Super hopes he will not only see his neighborhood streets stay clean, but the entire city as well.

If you have a complaint about a vehicle, you can contact the Department by calling 406-771-1180. The Department will only tag a vehicle if it is called in by a resident.

The Great Falls Housing Authority is the only place in the city the department doesn't respond to. That's because the Housing Authority has its own way of dealing with those vehicles.

Click here to read the city ordinance regarding abandoned or junk vehicles. Click here to read the Montana law regarding vehicles left on the street for more than five days.