What is Chicago doing about duplicate sticker tickets?
The City of Chicago has a message for drivers who have received more than one sticker ticket in a single day: Take us to court. Or, if you’re feeling generous, just pay.
Seven weeks after ProPublica Illinois / WBEZ revealed that Chicago police officers and parking assistants had, on some 20,000 occasions over the past decade, issued multiple citations for not having a required sticker on the same vehicle , city officials made no apparent effort to refund the money – although they said they could.
Asked what was being done, officials from the finance department referred to the city’s legal department.
Bill McCaffrey, a spokesperson for the Legal Department, said in a statement: “Depending on the circumstances, it is possible for a car to receive multiple tickets per day. In these cases, motorists have the option of paying the fines for the infractions or contesting the tickets. “
Finance officials first raised the possibility of offering repayments or canceling debts in June, after being informed by ProPublica Illinois / WBEZ that over the past decade, the city had issued nearly 20,000 duplicate citations for vehicles without the required municipal sticker.
Officials in the finance department said they were “taking this seriously” and working with other departments to “dig deeper into the matter and determine responsible next steps.”
Many city officials privately acknowledge city ordinance – the obligation for vehicle owners to purchase stickers each year and affix them to their windshields – clearly indicates that a vehicle can only be cited once per day.
The city clerk’s office, which is responsible for administering the sticker program, operates with this understanding. And drivers who dispute duplicate tickets almost always have at least one ticket data show thrown.
Sticker tickets cost $ 200 each and quickly drop to $ 488 if not paid for. ProPublica Illinois explained how these tickets, along with other traffic and parking citations, put thousands of drivers into bankruptcy.
About half of duplicate tickets go unpaid. This debt will stay on the books – potentially threatening drivers’ licenses and their vehicles – unless the city concludes that the tickets were wrongly issued and rejects them.
Black drivers are the most affected by duplicate tickets and, more generally, by all tickets with vignettes, ProPublica Illinois / WBEZ reported last month. These tickets are distributed disproportionately to drivers on the west and south sides of Chicago, neighborhoods where the majority of residents are low-income and black.
Sticker tickets stand out among the dozens of vehicle-related quotes the city poses as they are among the most expensive and least likely to be paid for. They also contribute to the greater ticket debt owed to the city of Chicago, a phenomenon that is helping push thousands of low-income black Chicagoans out of business.
In recent months, a growing number of organizations have started calling for a change in the city’s ticketing practices, citing reports from ProPublica Illinois and more recent reports done with WBEZ.
In June, researchers from the Woodstock Institute, a local nonprofit that advocates progressive financial policies, published a report highlight the disparities in ticketing, including self-adhesive ticketing.
“Our results indicate that you need to look at this, ”said Lauren Nolan, group research director. “You have to do a bias study. These are quite striking results. “
The Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative public policy research group, believes Chicago is too dependent on fines and fees, including the city’s sticker fees. The group released an analysis in February comparing Chicago taxes and fees to those of other major American cities. Adam Schuster, the group’s director of budget and tax research, called the cost of city vignettes and associated death penalties “by a thousand cuts.”
“Yes [drivers] are not able to afford the original registration fee, the penalty now is that they owe more money, which can be a really hard poverty trap to break out, ”he said.
Last month Jacie Zolna, a Chicago attorney who sued the city for lack of sufficient notice for tickets tied to automated traffic cameras – and secured a $ 39 million settlement – chased the city again, claiming his heavy financial penalties violated state law.
Ticketing is also becoming an issue in the Chicago mayoral race. The election takes place next February.
One candidate, Troy LaRaviere, a former Chicago school principal who is one of more than half a dozen candidates vying to overthrow Mayor Rahm Emanuel, posted an ad online this week attack Emanuel for, among other things, urban ticketing practices that “Forcing thousands of people to lose their cars and forcing thousands of others into bankruptcy.”
Another candidate, Paul Vallas, former Chicago schoolmaster, calls for an overhaul ticketing policies, including city sticker violations, automated traffic camera citations, and debt-related driver’s license suspensions.
“I honestly believe these fees and fines are counterproductive,” Vallas said. “I think they’re actually digging communities.”