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Oakland neighborhood becomes dumping ground for stolen, stripped vehicles

<i></i><br/>It looks like a cluttered junkyard filled with discarded vehicles

It looks like a cluttered junkyard filled with discarded vehicles


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    OAKLAND, California (KPIX) — It looks like a cluttered junkyard filled with discarded vehicles, then you notice the houses. Neighbors say the numbers are growing and they want Oakland officials to do something about it.

Among those voices is community advocate Ken Houston.

“It is getting worse by the day,” Houston told KPIX. “I mean you can talk to some of the neighbors on Edes and Carey Street. This is just one section.”

As Houston walks through parts of Oakland, he points out the abandoned cars and illegal dumping he sees on a daily basis. He says it is on the rise.

“Look at this new car and these cars that are burned up have been here for years. ” He said.

He says part of the problem is intimidation by vehicle thieves.

“Neighbors are hostage in their own home because they are scared to report it because of retaliation,” he said. “One person said they told her ‘if you report me I’m going to burn down your house with your kids.'”

Neighbors like Gabi Napoles who have lived here for years and have dealt with the blight right in her own front yard.

“It is crazy. It is really sad,” said Napoles.

Sad because even as she says she tries to secure her home she is afraid of cars being set on fire.

“There has been a fire at night,” she said. “It happens at night and my house will shake.and we will think it is an earthquake but it is another vehicle on fire. My husband will come out and water down the house and yard.”

“What happens sometimes is people start living in them,” said Houston.

When it comes to who is responsible for cleaning it up Houston says Union Pacific is responsible for part of the area and the city and Caltrans and BART have jurisdiction over other areas.

Houston says all of the agencies have been trying to work together for years.

“It gets depressing,” Houston said. “If you lived in this neighborhood wouldn’t you be embarrassed for your friends and family to come by? I would be.”

The city of Oakland admits it has a backlog. They can’t come and tow a vehicle if someone is living in it, but they certainly can come and tow a vehicle that has been stolen and stripped and left on the street.

“Well they took all four tires, ” said Shirnell Smith who is with the city’s new vehicle enforcement unit. “They actually punched the ignition and stole it and that is how they were able to take the car.”

The city launched the vehicle enforcement unit two months ago. Technicians like Shirnell are assigned to a specific area to focus on stolen and abandoned vehicles and tow them out.

Oftentimes it is neighbors who call and report the stolen or abandoned vehicles.

“There are times we have seen people dumping cars and we call OPD immediately so that will hopefully take one car robber off the street,” Houston said. “Basically we are here for recovery. If I come back three or four days later there will be someone living in it and then I can’t take it because it will be someone’s home. “

For community members like Ken Houston it is a step in the right direction .

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