Inspector General Investigates Overnight Booting Crews
Finds $320,000 In Lost Wages But Problem Gets Fixed
The night shift was slacking off.
That’s the short version of the results of an investigation of night shift booters–the people who immobilize vehicles with too many unpaid parking tickets–by the Chicago Inspector General’s office.
According to an IGO report, since overnight booting began in late 2009, there were some scheduling issues with the Department of Streets & Sanitation dispatchers, who helped verify if a vehicle was boot eligible or not, which essentially resulted in booters being instructed by their managers to take long lunches and extra breaks near the end of their shift.
This violation of city policy resulted in the number of boots being placed to drop to nearly zero for the last two hours of the overnight shift from 4-6 AM.
While this drop in booting efficiency may have been helpful to a handful of scofflaws trying to avoid the boot, it was a waste of taxpayer money the IGO contends.
According to the IGO, this resulted in 30 minutes less of booting time per booter per shift, which based on an the average hourly booter pay of over $41 per hour adds up to $320,000 in wasted manpower over a two year period.
But perhaps the real story is that the Department of Finance, which now oversees parking enforcement for the city, when alerted to the problem by the IGO, followed the agency’s suggestions and corrected these problems almost immediately.
In fact, when City Comptroller Amer Ahmed was alerted to all these issues in April, he moved quickly to resolve these problems before the IGO released their report this past Friday.
Night time booting personnel has stopped these inefficient practices, began using an automated verification technology instead of human dispatchers, and have gone back to staggered lunches and breaks.
While this is good news for taxpayers it’s been bad news for drivers fearing the boot, as more eligible vehicles are being immobilized than ever before.
“As soon as the Department of Finance became aware of the issue with booters, it was quickly addressed and booters now have staggered lunches and breaks throughout their shift,” explained Department of Finance spokesperson Holly Stutz. “Throughout the years, the Department of Finance has implemented many initiatives to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the boot program. These changes have resulted in a 73% increase in the number of boots placed per year from 2002 to 2011.”
“Ultimately, we thank the Inspector General’s Office for bringing attention to a practices of the Booting Program personnel (taking lunches and breaks at the end of their shifts), as well as to the absence of appropriate Streets and Sanitation dispatch personnel, which resulted in an inefficient utilization of booting, supervisory, and investigative resources during the timeframe of early 2010 through mid 2011,” Ahmed stated in an official response to the IGO report.
“In our view this is how things should work,” says IGO spokesperson Jonathon Davey. “They deserve credit for swift action.”
The Inspector General applauded the actions of City Comptroller Amer Ahmad in his review, commending the immediate response to the staffing and labor practices and improving the booting program,” explained Stutz. “Inspector General Ferguson even suggested that other City Departments should adopt the model used by the Department of Finance when cutting costs and increasing the quality of City services.”
Perhaps, this is one of the few times the “City That Works,” actually did.
Here’s the Chicago Inspector General’s full report, “Booters Final Report.”