As part of the City of Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety effort, a newly organized team of civilian employees are working to provide improved, unarmed service to Oakland neighbors removing blighted, abandoned vehicles from their curbsides.
In 2021 the Oakland City Council authorized the transfer of abandoned auto operations out of the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and into the Department of Transportation (OakDOT). The City Administrator’s Office created an abandoned auto task force to oversee the transition, and after nearly 18 months of planning and preparations, OakDOT’s new Vehicle Enforcement Unit was launched this month. The beefed-up unit includes 13 technicians, 1 supervisor, and 2 office support staff. The technicians are organized into three details: 6 dedicated to Abandoned Auto, 4 dedicated to Scofflaw and 3 dedicated to Vehicle Encampment, supporting the City’s Encampment Management Team.
“Oaklanders deserve the highest levels of customer service from their local government, and they also demand we deliver that service through a lens of justice and holistic community safety. This important, groundbreaking effort does exactly that,” Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said. “We are reinforcing our work to keep neighborhoods clean from blighted, abandoned vehicles, – and, in turn, we are directing more OPD public safety resources where they are most needed.”
“OakDOT was founded in a vision for equity and service and prided itself in setting new, innovative models for how a city department can operate – the Vehicle Enforcement Unit is our latest step forward,” OakDOT Director Fred Kelley said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the team of dedicated OakDOT staff delivering this important service to the community. We thank Mayor Thao and the City Council for their leadership and support, and our partners at OPD for their commitment and collaborative effort.”
The VEU’s long-anticipated launch includes several highlights:
1. Abandoned autos are consistently one of the top complaints on the City’s OAK311 service request system and meeting this high level of demand has long had to compete against other public safety priorities with limited police staffing.
2. The most-affected neighborhoods will see a dramatic increase in the speed with which the VEU responds to complaints and removes blighted vehicles.
3. This reorganization affirms the City’s commitment to rethink public safety by allowing our civilian transportation professionals to take the lead on addressing this pressing community concern while allowing our police personnel to direct increased focus on community policing priorities.
4. The new unit will double the number of “scofflaw vans,” promoting compliance by “booting” or immobilizing vehicles that have five or more outstanding citations.
5. The unit includes a special detail dedicated to supporting the City’s Encampment Management Team, supporting scheduled closures and conducting vehicle encampment assessments and outreach in support of a harm reduction strategy.
6. This reorganization completely integrates parking and mobility management into OakDOT, affording a great promotional opportunity for Parking Enforcement personnel and a pipeline of experienced professionals to staff the new Vehicle Enforcement Unit.
The positive impact of the new unit will be measured by the reduction in the number of days to close abandoned auto service requests, the number of blighted vehicles towed, noncompliant parking issues mitigated in Oakland neighborhoods, and the number of vehicle encampment assessments completed. OakDOT is planning to track and publish results for these and other performance measures. For more information, please visit https://www.oaklandca.gov/topics/vehicle-enforcement-unit.
To report an abandoned vehicle in your neighborhood, please contact OAK311: