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City of Lake Worth red tagging program aims to clean up streets

Posted: 4:57 PM, Jul 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-04 08:10:26Z
Red tag program cleans up streets of Lake Worth

Lake Worth is dealing with a big problem, and the solution is red tags.

Abandoned and inoperable cars have cluttered several commercial and residential areas for years, but for the last few months, the city has been doing something about it. 

It's not a new problem. Last year the city passed an ordinance giving code enforcement the power to boot and tag cars that need to be towed. 

"We really are committed to cleaning it up," Lake Worth Department Of Community Sustainability Assistant Director of Operations Lori Milano said.

Abandoned cars, some of them missing parts, are sitting on public roadways and private properties. 

"They're dismantled, have flat tires, wrecked," said Milano. 

Since February, code enforcement officers are red tagging cars and commercial trucks that are inoperable; those that don't have active registration or are visibly not safe to drive. They do it every day, but on Wednesdays, every code enforcement officer in Lake Worth is only red tagging. 

"A lot of them, if you just inform them what they need to do, they try to come within compliance," said Lake Worth Code Compliance Officer William Hamrick. 

Cars not in compliance will get towed and if owners want to recover them they have to pay the towing company. If they resolve the violation before their time to correct it is up, they face no charge.  

"From a visual standpoint, it has a huge impact," said Milano. "Ultimately, as we eliminate this blight, I think that the crime will actually go down." 

The city says since February it has red tagged more than 900 cars and has seen up to 80 percent compliance most months. 

On a public street, any car with a red tag is getting towed after five days.

On Tuesday the city towed a car near Michael Gizefski's auto repair shop off Dixie Highway.  "I was glad to see it go, it was sitting there for about a month and a half," said Gizefski.

But the tow company was coming back for one of his cars. 

"When I came out and noticed there was a red tag on there, I looked and I saw that the license plate was gone," said Gizefski. "I put the tag back on." 

Gizefski said he tried to get in touch with the city to resolve the problem, but five days later the towing truck was there. The tow operator was able to verify the license plate matched the car and there was no violation. 

"We live in Lake Worth and we want our city to be a nice clean city," said Gizefski. But he believes there needs to be more outreach from code compliance officers.

"This car is sitting here legally for the last 5 days and all they have to do is come back and do their homework," he said. 

The city says the problem is overwhelming.  "We tow 10, and they bring back 15," said Hamrick.

The city can tag cars on public and private property. If you get a red tag on your car, there's a number on the tag you can call to get the problem resolved. Every red tag should also have the name of the code compliance officer who signed it.

The city encourages car owners to comply with the city code before the deadline on the red tag.