Parking tickets on the decline

Last year, Chicago Police officers wrote 60,000 fewer parking tickets than they did in 2003. Police brass were called on the carpet by City Hall. Rank-and-file officers were asked to pick up the pace.
parking_ticket_01.gifThe roll-call reminders apparently didn't work -- to the delight of Chicago motorists.

Records show that police officers wrote 1,006,988 parking tickets through June 30, compared to 1,141,407 during the same period a year ago.

That's a drop-off of 11.7 percent, or 134,419 tickets, from the level that raised eyebrows in 2004.

Civilian parking enforcement aides didn't exactly pick up the slack. They wrote 529,154 tickets through July 31, an increase of only 196 tickets from the 75,789-a-month pace of a year ago.

Even with the falloff in police ticket-writing, parking ticket revenues continue to climb, thanks to the city's decision to crack the whip with increased fines and aggressive use of the Denver boot while making payment easier.

Pay-and-display boxes in the Loop have boosted revenue by 22 percent over the old parking meters, with 60 percent of all motorists paying by credit card. Payment plans and payment options that allow scofflaws to settle their debts online have also contributed to the increase.

Through June 30, City Hall had raked in a record $81.9 million, an increase of 9.2 percent from the same period a year ago.

Revenue Director Bea Reyna-Hickey took the police ticket-writing falloff in stride.

"We know that it's down," she said. "The reality is that, as police redeploy some of its staff, there will be a decrease if they're not on that type of detail. Their more critical function is crime-fighting.

"It's just a matter of making sure that whatever tickets are issued, that people pay them. While ticket issuance may be down, revenue has continued to increase. People are paying the tickets they receive. Payment plans have given them more options."

No quota, police say

Parking ticket collections started skyrocketing long before Mayor Daley's 2004 budget included increases in parking fines.

In 1998, the city raised $77.2 million from parking tickets. Last year, it was $154 million, a record that's almost certain to be broken in 2005, when ticket revenues are expected to approach the $164 million mark.

Last year, police brass denied they have a ticket quota and blamed the 60,000-ticket falloff on the completion of two major construction projects: the $200 million reconstruction of Wacker Drive and the underpass and bridge at 11th Street and Columbus Drive that connects to the lakefront and museum campus.
Chicago Suntimes
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