Battle Ground police are planning to more rigidly enforce parking laws following an uptick in illegally parked and abandoned vehicles over the past few years.
In the year between March 2019 and March 2020, the Battle Ground Police Department received 97 complaints related to vehicles, according to police data. That figure continued a steady rise from 49 complaints between March 2016 and March 2017.
The overall number of citizen complaints, including those related to animal control or property crimes, has risen as well.
Police Chief Mike Fort pointed to the city’s population increase. More than 21,200 people lived in the city as of July 2019, compared with about 17,800 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Our one code compliance officer needed help handling this increased volume of work, so police officers will begin assisting with not only abandoned vehicles, but also other parking violations that decrease the livability of other citizens,” Fort wrote in an email.
Fort said abandoned and illegally parked cars can often be spotted on connector streets such as Northeast Grace Avenue and Northeast Commerce Avenue.
Under the city code, a vehicle is considered abandoned after it’s left on a public right-of-way or city parking lot for 72 hours.
Fort said officers will begin placing warnings on vehicles today. If a tagged vehicle is not removed within 24 hours, officers can begin attempting to contact the owner.
If a vehicle is registered to occupants of a nearby residence, officers will attempt to knock on the door and, if no one answers, leave a notification, according to a news release from the city explaining the increased enforcement. Officers also can use vehicle identification numbers and have access to databases that typically contain contact information, Fort said. In the unusual situation when no one claims a vehicle, a tow company may begin the process of assuming ownership and selling it.
Vehicles are impounded if they are not removed after attempted contacts, and owners may be fined up to $250 for parking violations, according to the city code.
The police department has hired two additional officers this year, an action promised after voters in February approved the city’s annexation into Clark County Fire District 3’s coverage area, thus freeing up more money for law enforcement. One of the officers is already on patrol, which will help the vehicle-related efforts, Fort said.