LIHUE — Two abandoned cars have been taking up space in the dirt parking lot by Wailua Beach Park.
Headlights are smashed and tires are flat, doors are flung open and license plates have been removed.
A little further north along Kuhio Highway, Kauai Police Department has been responding to reports of similar vehicles abandoned along Kealia Beach — vehicles with piles of trash around them, tires removed and windshields shattered.
Buried on the side of the road beyond Kealia is a little, dark blue car that has been ditched with the safety inspection sticker and license plates removed. Door handles are missing, taillights are broken, windows are shattered, and the inside is filled with tarps and empty water jugs.
These are several of about 130 abandoned vehicles that KPD has yet to remove from public property, vehicles that they technically should be removing within 10 days of abandonment.
That’s thanks to a new law, signed by Gov. David Ige in June, there is a new timeframe for counties to respond to abandoned vehicles.
But, KPD says they aren’t able to meet the new requirements because they don’t have enough resources — a problem they voiced in testimony when the law was being created.
“The Kauai Police Department takes its responsibility of addressing our island’s abandoned and derelict vehicles very seriously,” said Acting Assistant Chief Paul Applegate of KPD’s Patrol Services Bureau. “We are working toward increasing our staff in order to be compliant (with the new law).”
KPD only has one abandoned-vehicle coordinator, one contracted towing company for abandoned vehicles, and one contracted towing company for derelict vehicles. Match that against the need to respond to 100 abandoned-vehicle complaints left over from 2018 and — as of Feb. 6 — 16 total complaints encompassing 38 vehicles this year.
“While we cannot currently meet the new requirements (mandating removal within 10 days), KPD continues its practice of removing abandoned vehicles as quickly and safely as possible,” Applegate said. “Vehicles left unattended and in disrepair on public properties creates a health and safety issue, and can lead to other crimes.”
Two types of vehicles are sitting on public property, on roadsides and in beach park lots — abandoned vehicles are vehicles left unattended for more than 24 hours on a public highway or on public property, and vehicles are classified as derelict if major parts have been removed or material damage makes the vehicles inoperable, according to the County of Kauai.
Response to either usually takes weeks.
“From the time a complaint is received — depending on our current backlog, the specifics of the situation, location and various details — it may take anywhere from two to six weeks to address the complaint,” Applegate said.
Once a vehicle is addressed and posted “abandoned,” KPD waits the prescribed 24 hours and then the vehicles are typically towed within the next 24 hours, Applegate said.
They all go to the Puhi Metals Recycling Facility, operated by Resource Recovery Solutions, where they await KPD to complete the legal process of notifying the registered owner.
“We are trying to have the vehicle processed and claimed by its registered owner or disposed of as quickly as possible, which could take anywhere from 20 to 30 days,” Applegate said.
Derelict vehicles are non-recoverable and do not require a 24-hour notice. Derelict vehicles are often towed the same day, and disposal begins upon their arrival to RRS.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.