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posted: 2/16/2010 12:01 AM

Arlington Hts. putting the boot on parking

Scofflaws can get it starting May 1, but appeals will be easier, too

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Arlington Heights will start giving the boot to cars of parking ticket scofflaws on May 1.

On the same day, the village will begin holding hearings for people who want to contest parking tickets and minor traffic violations.

The Arlington Heights village board Monday passed an ordinance setting up the two processes, initially approved last May.

The police department recently bought six wheel clamps, and they will be attached to any vehicle with five or more parking tickets that have been unpaid for at least 90 days. They are called vehicle immobilization devices and are a different brand than the Denver Boot, Capt. Nick Pecora said.

"We have never used the device in Arlington Heights," Pecora said. "We have researched with vendors trying to get a program in place."

The village got the booting idea rolling last spring as a way to combat chronic offenders. Police, for example, had recorded 510 tickets and $28,711 in fines for a single driver who parked illegally downtown nearly every day. And that person wasn't even in the top 10.

In 2008, parking tickets constituted about 5,000 of the village's 17,600 tickets. Between 10 and 15 percent of those were unpaid as of last spring.

"We will have an amnesty program so people can clear this up before we start this program," Pecora said. People will be able to check how many tickets they have and pay up before May 1.

The hearings in front of an administrative officer in village hall will benefit people who want to contest parking tickets, village sticker violations and minor traffic violations like driving with burned-out lights.

The tickets can be appealed via mail or at an administrative hearing that will be held twice a month.

The hearing process "generally allows more face-to-face interaction between citizens and administrators," Trustee Thomas Glasgow said.

But there are other motivations. Right now the only way residents can appeal tickets is in Cook County Circuit Court. Such tickets clog up the court, which faces more serious crimes, Pecora said.

In addition, if the citizen's appeal is denied, the judge is required to charge him or her $135 in court costs. Usually that means the judge does not ask the person to also pay the original fine, which might only be $25.

While the citizen is paying a higher fee, the village gets no money.

The department will hire an attorney to conduct the hearings and will try to have them at times that will allow people to state their cases without missing work, such as on weekend afternoons, Pecora said.

Officers will not have to attend these hearings, and no court charges will be assessed against the people who are ticketed, he said.

Boot: Residents can avoid court costs for small tickets