City to tow abandoned vehicles at no cost

Program to start Monday, continue through April 5

March 08, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Announcing a city campaign to clear Baltimore streets of abandoned vehicles, Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday that the city temporarily will tow derelict vehicles for free beginning next week.

After a grace period from Monday through April 5, city officials said, owners of towed cars and trucks will face fines for having their vehicles disposed of. Typical fees range from $160 to $300.

Speaking in the North Baltimore neighborhood of Remington, which is littered with many abandoned vehicles, O'Malley said he has lost patience with an unseemly citywide problem: "Little things can demoralize neighbors, and there are some things only government can do.

"Here's your chance to get rid of that heap. ... It's just that simple," he added. O'Malley emphasized that amnesty from parking and other fines will not be granted.

A tow hot line, 410-361-9600, will be established so city residents may make appointments to have their vehicles picked up. A caller must provide the make, model and location of the vehicle, and show its title to the city tow-truck driver.

The city will impound the cars and auction them or sell them for scrap metal, officials said.

Abandoned cars are defined as unlicensed or unregistered, damaged or deteriorated, ones that are on private property without the owner's consent or vehicles parked in the same place on a public street for more than 48 hours.

In a second phase of what's been dubbed the "Remove Abandoned Vehicles Now" campaign, O'Malley said, the police, public works and housing and community development departments will coordinate more aggressive enforcement of the abandoned vehicle laws. Removing abandoned vehicles from private property could take up to 17 days, officials said, because notices will have to be mailed to property owners.

Retired Army Col. Alfred H. Foxx, director of the city's Office of Transportation, will head the RAVN campaign, which will use seven city tow trucks. Asked how many cars the city intends to tow, he said, "As many as we can get."

Lawrence J. James, 46, a lifelong Remington resident, said he hopes the initiative will improve community morale. "People have been stealing a lot of cars and stripping them down of all the parts, leaving them around here," he said.

After O'Malley boarded a city tow truck to demonstrate a tow, he promised to be available if pressed into service: "I'll go out on every one of these calls."

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