Abandoned cars are plaguing Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, taking up parking spaces, posing safety hazards and generally adding blight to the streets. A recent Inquirer report found the city faces a backlog of 34,000 active complaints about abandoned cars, and residents are waiting longer than ever for the city to remove them.

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Got an abandoned junker on your block? Here’s how to report it, how long you can expect to wait and what you can do to increase your chances of getting the car moved.

How to identify an abandoned car

The city considers cars to be “abandoned” if it meets any one of the following criteria.

  • Cars that are visibly inoperable — meaning vehicles that have flat tires or are missing critical parts — are considered abandoned, as are those that are damaged in ways that could pose a danger.

  • Vehicles that are missing a license plate, inspection stickers or do not have visible vehicle identification numbers.

  • Cars with registration or inspection tags that have been expired for more than three months.

  • Any vehicle left on private property for more than 24 hours without the property owner’s consent.

How long does a car have to be there to be considered abandoned?

State law says at least 48 hours, with the exception of the 24-hour rule for cars parked on private property.

Who to call to report an abandoned car

You can report an abandoned car through the city’s 311 non-emergency hotline or the companion website and phone app.

You can also call 911 or report directly to police districts. However, given high emergency call volumes and understaffing at the city’s 911 call centers, the city recommends 311.

Who removes an abandoned car for the city?

According to state law, a police officer must investigate and approve requests to remove an abandoned car. For that reason, 311 reports of abandoned cars are sent to a unit of the police department called the Neighborhood Services Unit, which handles various quality-of-life issues. After the car has been ticketed by police for a certain number of days — the city says 20 is the average — the police will call a contracted towing company to salvage the vehicles.

How long does it take the city to tow a car?

Expect to wait months — unless the car poses an immediate danger. The city says that it ordinarily takes about two months for police investigators to respond to a complaint. However, the Neighborhood Services Unit is understaffed for a variety of reasons and, in practice, 311 data shows that most abandoned complaints take closer to six months to resolve.

Does filing multiple 311 requests help speed things up?

It’s unclear. The city says the Neighborhood Services Unit “typically conducts enforcement in the order that 311 complaints are received.” It’s not clear if filing multiple complaints has any impact on prioritizing a car for removal.

What kind of cars are prioritized for quick removal?

The city says vehicles that pose “imminent health and safety hazards” will be removed immediately.

That can include vehicles with broken windows, leaking fluids and or vehicles experiencing a rodent or trash infestation. Deflated tires by themselves don’t necessarily qualify for immediate removal, according to city officials.

What else can you do?

You can try calling your city councilmember. Most district council offices employ constituent service representatives who field complaints from constituents. While there is no set policy, some residents say calls to council offices can speed this process.