Jan 23, 2023 - News

Philadelphia grapples with backlog of abandoned vehicle complaints

Abandoned vehicle complaints topped all service requests to Philly's 311 system last year as the city slogs through a massive backlog.

Driving the news: Nearly 37,500 complaints about abandoned cars were logged to 311 in 2022, followed by requests about illegal dumping and graffiti, per the city's monthly reports.

  • That's nearly 13% of the more than 290,000 requests reported to 311 last year.

Why it matters: Abandoned vehicles aren't only eyesores and inconveniences, they can potentially become hazards too.

Context: Complaints about abandoned vehicles spiked during the pandemic, overtaking some other well-entrenched quality-of life-issues, such as rubbish removal and illegal dumping.

  • Residents are also waiting longer for the city to remove vehicles than years prior. The wait time was six months on average in early 2022, up from two months in 2020, the Inquirer reported.
  • Mayor Jim Kenney's administration budgeted $2 million to address the issue last year.

The latest: Philadelphia is facing a backlog of 36,000 abandoned car requests after towing 1,300 such vehicles last year, Kenney spokesperson Laila Sadat told Axios.

Be smart: 311 requests don't represent the total number of abandoned vehicles in the city, Sadat said, noting that complaints could be duplicates or about vehicles that don't fit the criteria.

  • Sadat also said 2022 figures could be inaccurate due to delays with data entry and other issues.

What they're saying: The Police Department's Neighborhood Services Unit, which investigates and removes abandoned cars, is not fully staffed, Sgt. Eric Gripp told Axios.

  • That's in part because the department — which is facing a general staffing shortage — prioritizes hiring and retaining officers in units that address violent crime, he said.

But Gripp noted that the department's Truck Enforcement Unit has been assisting with the issue since last summer, helping to more effectively target vehicles for tow.

Sadat said that the city is also struggling to address abandoned car complaints due to limited staffing issues.

  • "But we take each request seriously and are working to respond as efficiently as possible given such limitations," she said.

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