Residents of upper Northwest Washington can relax -- that ghost of a green Volkswagen bug that's been haunting their streets since Halloween has finally been apprehended by the Department of Environmental Services (DES).
"That car drove us crazy," said Mary French of DES. "We'd get a call to come pick it up and it would be gone. Then in a week or so we'd get another call from a different location a few blocks away. We'd go to pick it up and it would be gone again."
Once abandoned, the green VW apparently caught the fancy of neighborhood teen-agers, who decided to tease authorities by moving it around. By the time DES finally caught up with it, it was not only abandoned but also battered, rusted and missing most of its relevant parts.
Its ultimate fate, like that of other "junkers," is to be sold by the pound for scrap.
DES said that most of the 2,190 vehicles it picked up in the 12-month period ending Oct. 31 were not junkers. Police officers in each district decide whether a car is worth impounding, or whether it goes directly to the scrap heap. Owners of salvageable cars have 60 days to rescue their vehicles from the impoundment lot. After that they are are sold at auction.
Abandoned cars, by their location, tell long and often sad tales of disappointment, jealousy and dashed expectations. Most of them are not stolen, only orphaned.
Districts with lots of repair shops, for instance, have lots of abandoned cars. People take their vehicles in for repairs, get the estimate, then throw up their hands. They drive a couple of blocks, park the car and walk away.
In residential areas such as the 2nd District (upper Northwest) where parking is a problem, DES often finds itself in the middle of neighborhood jealousies over parking spots. Disgruntled residents have been known to notify authorities of "abandoned vehicles" parked in places already staked out by the residents.
Since police post a notice on the vehicle giving the owner 72 hours to move it, this tactic results in a little harrassment but no real danger.
Around license tag renewal time, abandonment reaches epidemic proportions, police say. Drivers with many outstanding parking violations often decide the car isn't worth paying all the tickets in order to get new tags.
And it's the end of the road again.