Signs of progress emerge as number of abandoned vehicles rises on Oahu

News

Abandoned vehicles piling up around the island pose a safety problem and an eyesore.

But there’s a sign things are about to get better.

Department of Customer Services director Sheri Kajiwara tells us a few years ago, the city was looking at about 1,000 abandoned vehicles a year that needed to be handled.

Now, that number is 1,000 a month.

“So that’s a tenfold increase that our contractor has to deal with, so you’ve got a ten-time increase with lack of space, with the military issue, with less processing centers. That’s where we are today,” she said.

While the city has seen a rise in numbers, officials continue to assess why. They suspect that the drop in salvage metal prices has greatly contributed.

The city also ran into some setbacks dealing with abandoned military vehicles. It recently reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding vehicles belonging to active-duty service members.

“So we changed some of our processes to be more successful in that in the future,” Kajiwara said.

Since August, the city is requiring military service members to add personal information, like their social security number and Department of Defense identification number, when they register their vehicles. That way city officials can track service members easily if they are off-island.

Back in September, we told you the city also hired an extra person dedicated to finding vehicle owners in the military. We found that person left the position after a month.

“It was at that point in the contract, it was too late to find someone, train someone, so we just asked existing staff to step up to the plate and work a little more,” said Kajiwara.

Work a little more they did. The city was able to destroy about 250 abandoned military vehicles out of 550.

It also moved abandoned vehicles from the tow contractor’s lot into a city lot to free up more space.

“Right now, we have a contractor on schedule and they are picking up abandoned vehicles according to districts, and we are going to keep working with them on this schedule now that we have additional space,” said Kajiwara.

For various reason, the city did not want to publicize the targeted areas.

KHON2 did receive calls of abandoned vehicle pileups along Kamehameha Highway on the windward side. We asked if the city was taking care of those cars.

A city official told us that they’re responsible for abandoned vehicles on public city streets, but in an interest of public safety, as they are able to, they will help to address vehicles left on state or private streets if:

  1. They are highly utilized public thoroughfares, and
  2. There is no signage, chains, or barriers that prohibit entry.

Kamehameha Highway fits this category and this past Saturday, the city’s contractor was able to remove 13 abandoned vehicles in that area.

City officials are also heading to state lawmakers for help. Some of the assistance they’re asking for involves more space, business incentives to process disposed cars, and stiffer penalties.

“One of the things that I have asked the legislation to assist on is looking at a way stop the abandonment of vehicles, because that’s illegal,” said Kajiwara.

Kajiwara is testifying on two bills related to abandoned vehicles: House Bill 2442 and Senate Bill 2479.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.