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updated: 11/7/2013 6:01 PM

Elgin plans to crack down on parking scofflaws

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If you have three or more unpaid parking tickets in Elgin, your vehicle could soon be towed to an impound lot.

More than 494 individuals fall into this category, owing the city more than $118,000 in unpaid fines. That's part of more than $1.1 million in unpaid parking tickets, according to information from Elgin police.

In addition, there are more than $717,000 in unpaid ordinance violations in Elgin, police said.

The committee of the whole Wednesday night unanimously approved several ordinance changes to deal with parking scofflaws.

The police department would have the authority to boot vehicles, but that's not a tool police intend to use, Elgin Deputy Police Chief Bill Wolf said.

"We found that the booting side of things was probably more problematic than towing," he said. "Vehicles are often damaged when people try to drive away with the boots on."

Under the changes, fines for unpaid parking citations would increase.

Parking fines are $25, with increases to $30 after 21 days unpaid, $55 after 42 days, and $80 after 63 days. Under the new rules, fines would go up to $80 after 42 days, and $250 after 63 days, on par with the majority of Chicago suburbs, Wolf said.

The city plans to terminate its contract with collection agency Capital Recovery Systems, and enter into a contract with Municipal Collections of America.

CRS only recovered 6.27 percent of parking fines, much less than the 35.7 percent collection rate expected when it contracted with Elgin in 2011, officials said.

MCA has a proven collection rate of more than 20 percent in the suburbs where it operates, Wolf said.

Councilwoman Tish Powell pointed out these are difficult economic times. "I don't see changing to a new collection services agency increasing our collectability at this time," she said.

Thirty percent in collection fees would be passed on to violators. Currently, that's deducted by the collection agency from the amount owed to the city.

Councilman Terry Gavin asked about an adjudication process.

"We've got a lot of poor people in our community," he said. "Just raising the fine and jacking it up and taking their car isn't going to help."

Wolf said collection agencies are allowed to negotiate settlements with the city's approval.

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