The Zombie RV cycle: Bought, stolen, towed

Southeast Portland a hot spot for abandoned vehicles

A Zombie RV along a road in Southeast Portland, August 11, 2017 (KOIN)
A Zombie RV along a road in Southeast Portland, August 11, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Southeast Portland residents say so-called zombie RVs are becoming more common and RV campers say there are a lot of used RVs to keep the cycle going.

John Freeman said Brentwood Park is an RV hot spot and dumping ground for abandoned vehicles.

“It seems like ever since they did the Johnson Creek cleanup people have been moving here,” Freeman told KOIN 6 News. “It just seems like they started unloading garbage and stuff.”

But he said an orange sign popped up on the fence warning the occupants about an upcoming tow. “Surprisingly they were there this morning, and it was pretty amazing,” Freeman said.

Casey Dunning, who traded a car for an RV, had it towed and is again without a roof, August 11, 2017 (KOIN)
Casey Dunning, who traded a car for an RV, had it towed and is again without a roof, August 11, 2017 (KOIN)

Casey Dunning told KOIN 6 News he was rehabbing an RV that was removed Friday morning. He admitted it was “in poor shape, dry rot, probably had rats in it somewhere along the line,” but said it was still a roof over his head.

“I traded a 1996 Subaru Outback for my 1996 Ford Jamboree,” Dunning said. “It had a bathroom and shower and propane and everything. And they showed up and took it and now I’m out 500 bucks.”

Although he made a trade, he said most campers get theirs when the RVs are “green-tagged” — that is, abandoned by people who don’t want to pay the disposal fees.

A Zombie RV along a road in Southeast Portland, August 11, 2017 (KOIN)
A Zombie RV along a road in Southeast Portland, August 11, 2017 (KOIN)

“There are a lot of people around with a lot of money and they come with their bad cars and dump them off and buy new ones,” said Dunning’s friend Michael Pugh.

He said many people can’t pay to get them out of impound. Private towing companies also resell some RVs at auction cheaply, and sometimes fellow campers steal them.

“They like to work together and sabotage people’s RV,” Pugh said.

Freeman is sympathetic, but wants his street clear so his family feels safe. He said there are about 20 kids in that neighborhood and some are afraid to play outside.

“It’s kind of scary to go around with a bunch of homeless people going in your garbage can and the street and stuff,” Freeman said.