COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - KRDO NewsChannel 13 is investigating the situation involving abandoned vehicles in Colorado Springs.
On Monday, a KRDO NewsChannel 13 crew saw an abandoned vehicle with a flat tire behind a business on 8th Street. When the crew asked police to check the vehicle for possible suspicious activity, police said they wouldn't send an officer to the scene because the crew is not the property owner and there was no obvious sign of damage beyond the flat tire.
The crew said police refused to even write down or check the tag number.
The police response appears to be part of its normal policy, in which -- because of the department's current officer shortage -- officers are not sent to a scene unless a crime is in progress, a suspect is in the area or a person's life is in danger.
Lt. Howard Black explained a legal aspect to the policy.
"We can't tow a vehicle that's on private property or outside a home," he said.
Recently, residents near 33rd and Kiowa streets have complained about a large number of abandoned vehicles, related crime and a lack of police enforcement.
The vehicles, residents said, were parked by people who don't live in the neighborhood, left there for several days and ultimately enticed thieves to the area.
In one instance, a resident said there was an attempted vehicle burglary; in another instance, the keys and license plates were taken from another vehicle.
Residents said they'd like to see police ticket more abandoned vehicles or have them towed.
But police currently are unable to do that because its impound lot is full. The lot has a capacity of 1,200 vehicles and actually has 1,348. Half of the vehicles are evidence in criminal cases.
"It's a question of resources and priorities," Black said. "We have limited resources and abandoned vehicles are not high on our list of priorities. Would we like to expand the size of our impound lot? Sure. But the money isn't there."
Jack Denton, who lives near 33rd and Kiowa, is uncomfortable with the situation.
"It feels like we're being cased or checked out by people who don't live here," he said. "They leave their cars and it just creates problems."
Police said they are trying to clear space on the impound lot by closing cases as soon as possible that depend on some of the vehicles for evidence, and by holding occasional auctions to sell unclaimed vehicles.