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Why did it take so long for abandoned cars to be removed from city-owned parking garage?

It wasn't until a 5 On Your Side employee sent a tweet to Treasurer Tishara Jones last week that the city took action

If you leave a broken-down, busted-out car on the streets of St. Louis, you'll be ticketed and usually towed by the city soon after.

That's not what's happening to abandoned cars in some city-owned parking garages.

The I-Team found there have been dozens of complaints about cars that have already been abandoned for months — sometimes years — inside these garages.

Despite those complaints, it wasn't until investigative reporter PJ Randhawa and her team began looking into it that the city took action.

You pay to get in. But from the dust and debris around several abandoned cars in the Cupples Station parking garage on Spruce and 10th, it seems you can stay as long as you want.

"They're very dirty, run-down, might be broken into. [There's] shattered glass. Typical crappy cars," said Drew, who parks in the garage every day.

Peppered on almost every floor there are abandoned vehicles with
shattered windows, busted headlights, severe body damage and in some cases deployed airbags.

The I-Team dug through Citizen Service Bureau requests to see just how many complaints had been made about abandoned cars in the Cupples Garage and how long it took the city to respond.

One of the cars, a purple Beretta, had been sitting under layers of dust on the second floor since October 2018. And it may have been there longer than that. October 2018 is when it was first reported.

The back seat has blankets and glass from the broken-out windows. In the front, a deployed airbag and more glass. Swear words were written into the thick layer of dust that had settled onto the hood of the car.

On another level was a red SUV in similar condition. Broken windows, papers on the front seat, and the vehicle owner's insurance card were all in plain view. We contacted the owner, but haven't heard back.

"[That] would not surprise me. Not at all. There was a car that caught on fire. It took a while for the city to move it," said Jim Wilson, a regular parker in the garage.

The I-Team also spotted a white, four-door car that had been abandoned at least five months in a handicap spot by the elevator.

The CSB had marked the complaint about this car with the notation: "Vehicle not found," but the I-Team spotted it within minutes of arriving at the garage.

"That would be a problem. Because that's supposed to be for handicap people. They should be ticketed for that," said Scott, another regular parker in the garage.

Many of the cars had accumulated several tickets, but they remained rotting in place for months.

"They should definitely do something about it. It takes up spots for us. It has no business being here," said Wilson.

It wasn't until a 5 On Your Side employee sent a tweet to Treasurer Tishara Jones last week that the city took action.

Less than 48 hours later, at least three cars were finally towed.

A spokesperson for the St. Louis Treasurer's office said the cars were towed to the city tow lot.

We asked the treasurer's office why it takes so long for these clearly abandoned vehicles to be towed away.

They told us: "We like to give people ample opportunity to retrieve their vehicles before taking drastic action, such as towing."

They did not answer our questions about why they closed several of the complaints claiming they couldn't find the vehicles.

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