Chicago Begins 24 Hour A Day Booting
EXCLUSIVE Report From The Expired Meter
Scofflaws, hide your cars.
Because the City of Chicago, without any advance public warning, is literally, clamping down on motorists once again.
In an effort to catch more cars eligible for the dreaded Denver boot, and convince their owners to cough up the dough to pay off their unpaid parking tickets, a revenue starved City of Chicago has just begun 24 hour a day vehicle immobilization, six days a week.
Very quietly last Monday night, while most Chicagoans were asleep in bed, a fleet of 10 booting vans departed their parking lot staging areas located at 2735 N. Ashland Ave. for the very first sortie of overnight booting.
The first boot van pulled out a several minutes after 10 PM and began slowly prowling northbound on Ashland Ave., hunting scofflaw vehicles for just over a mile before catching it’s first prey of the night at 10:30 PM.
On Ashland Ave., just past Irving Park Rd. and directly in front of Lakeview High School, the very first victim of this new overnight initiative, felt the tight grip of cold yellow painted metal on its’ front driver’s side wheel.
13 minutes and another mile and a quarter later down Ashland, the same booter hit pay dirt again catching another scofflaw just south of Foster Ave.
The first night of overnight booting looked to be a very productive one.
With a black hole of a city budget deficit looming for 2010 and for as far as the eye can see, the Daley Administration, desperate to find revenue quickly, seems to be pulling out all the stops to bring in as much of the over half billion dollars in outstanding parking ticket and red light ticket fines owed the city.
The Department of Revenue hired and began training 12 new booters in September to beef up their ranks and prepare for the new around the clock vehicle immobilization strategy.
Up until recently, booting crews in Chicago started at 6 AM and continued into the early afternoon, ending around 2:30 PM. Additional shifts began in the early afternoon, with booting still continuing, but with a mild emphasis on releasing booted vehicles after owners paid the city what they owed for parking and red light camera tickets. In general, the bulk of boots applied during a day came during the morning and early afternoon.
Many Chicago drivers who utilize city streets to park their vehicles, understood this ebb and flow to booting. Boot eligible drivers who left for work early and then got home in the evening for dinner, had very little chance their car ever being caught in the jaws of a bright yellow boot. Because their cars were almost never parked when boot vans were prowling the streets of Chicago, they could go to sleep every night without fear. But that sense of security is now gone, with Sunday the sole day of the week without boot vans on the street.
“Now that’s messed up,” said a recently booted west side resident Greg Smith when asked about his thoughts on this change in enforcement policy. “Yes, I felt safe at night before. I was just shocked (when he was booted a few weeks ago), but I knew it was coming but didn’t know when.”
This new third shift, solely devoted to booting from 9:30 PM to 6 AM five days a week, will amount to an over 50% increase in the total hours of booting enforcement.
BOOTING BY THE NUMBERS
Year Boots % Increase
2005 48,365 7.1%
2006 55,641 15%
2007 58,898 5.8%
2008 63,515 7.8%
2009 65,420* 3%*
SOURCE: Chicago Dept. of Revenue
Over the past several years, the Department of Revenue has gradually improved the speed and efficiency of the booting process which has resulted in impressive increases in vehicle immobilization since 2004.
24 hours a day, seven days a week booting was introduced at city owned parking lots located at both O’Hare Airport in 2002 and Midway Airport in 2005.
2007 saw the DOR invest $1.5 million to outfit 26 boot vans with license plate recognition units that allow each boot van to scan several thousand license plates per shift, instead of having to manually enter license plates into a database. The resulting increase in booting productivity was immediate.
Then in July 2008, a Saturday shift was added to further expand booting hours.
Additionally, changes in booting eligibility has increased the number of target vehicles for boot crews. Last fall, Mayor Daley and the City Council passed an ordinance that lowered the booting threshold to two unpaid tickets more than one year old. Of course, three unpaid tickets in final determination will get you on the seizure list immediately.
However, this seemingly mild change in boot eligibility has increased the number of boot eligible plates by 39% or 191, 655 additional vehiles in seizure status as of August 2009.
It stands to reason that because the estimates for 2009 do not reflect booting numbers for November and December with the new overnight shift, total boots applied will be substantially higher when final numbers are tallied for the year.
In addition, while official DOR budget estimates for total boots applied in 2010 is a paltry 66,000, based on the city’s aggressive new round the clock booting initiative, this massive increase in booting hours should translate into a number closer to 100,000 immobilized vehicles next year.
Financially, this additional enforcement should help reduce the budget deficit by a couple of million bucks just in booting fees and perhaps rake in tens of millions of dollars in unpaid tickets next year when booted drivers pay to get their vehicles released.
Unfortunately, if you are booted overnight, the very earliest your vehicle can be released, even if you pay immediately, is 6 AM. Late night/early morning payments are accepted at both Midway and O’Hare DOR facilities 24 hours a day.
Department of Revenue payment facilities open at 8 AM Monday through Friday, with the Addison St. location offering the latest hours until 6:30 PM. On Saturdays, only the Central Hearing Facility is open from 8 AM to 3:30 PM.
In the meantime, scofflaw motorists are either going to have to pay up or find a way to stay out of sight from the now omnipresent boot van.
“Now you’re going to have people looking out their windows all hours, hiding their cars or sleeping in their cars,” exclaimed Smith. “Swear to God!”
Department of Revenue spokespeople declined a request for comment.