Lafayette, La., police are once again enforcing a law against rusting and broken-down vehicles. The move comes seven years after a lawsuit put the anti-blight effort on hold and forced a reworking of the city’s junked vehicle ordinance.
Police Chief Jim Craft tells The Advocate officers have investigated 82 complaints of junked vehicles since reviving enforcement about four weeks ago.
Of that number, Craft says enforcement action has begun for 25 of the vehicles, which could be towed at the owners’ expense if not removed voluntarily.
He said 28 cases are still open, and 29 ended with owners removing the vehicles themselves after being told they were in violation of local law.
“Many of the owners contacted (by police) are cooperating and are trying to make arrangements to move the vehicle,” Craft said.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council passed a new junked vehicle ordinance in November, but Craft said it has taken several months for his department to work out a standardized enforcement process, to determine who in the department will be in charge and to print the stickers used to tag junked vehicles for removal.
City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who pushed to get a retooled law back on the books, said he is eager to go “full throttle” on enforcement.
“We have put it back in effect, and because of the layover, there were a number of violations out there,” Boudreaux said.
Enforcement had been on hold since 2007, when a man filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the city’s seizure of vehicles on his property.
City-parish government paid $70,000 to settle the lawsuit in 2012, and thelegalstaff then began crafting a new version of the law to address thelegalquestions raised in the case.
The law calls for police officers to notify property owners of a violation and give them a chance to remove the vehicle or fix it.
If nothing is done, city-parish government can tow the vehicle and bill the owner.
For a violation under the revised law, a vehicle must be inoperable, be at the same site for more than 30 days and show signs of disrepair, such as missing parts, body damage, broken glass or rust.
The new law also removes an exemption in the old law for vehicles kept in a garage, shed or other enclosure.