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updated: 2/18/2014 9:30 PM

Taxi fleet owner, Elgin police disagree on complaint handling

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The owner of a South Elgin taxi fleet is disputing actions taken by the Elgin Police Department when a customer didn't pay a fare Monday.

Jamie Hjelm, owner of A Taxicab Leasing Corp., maintains police should have arrested a female passenger who didn't pay the $11 cab fare, which increased to $31 by the time police sorted out the incident.

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This is Hjelm's second public complaint against the police department, after she spoke in December to the Elgin City Council. A#1 Cab Dispatch, owned by her sister Naomi Hjelm, leases the vehicles.

Elgin Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said the officer used his discretion when he didn't arrest the passenger Monday and instead issued an administrative adjudication citation. The passenger will have to appear for a hearing March 19.

The female passenger told the driver, also a woman, she didn't have money for the 2.5-mile ride from Discount Tire to Wayside Center, both in Elgin, and that she'd get it from a friend upon arrival, Theriault said.

The passenger went inside and came back to tell the driver she couldn't find her friend, Theriault said. A criminal case has to include intent to commit theft, he said.

"We take each case on a case-by-case basis," he said.

People always come up with stories to cover up intent, Hjelm said, adding it's the cabdriver -- not her company -- that is owed the money.

The cab company, which started in 1985 in Elgin, has had hundreds of theft of service claims over the years in the more than 60 towns it serves, Jaime Hjelm said. The company moved to South Elgin in September.

"I've never had a police department tell me they are not arresting somebody on scene for theft of service," she said.

Elgin police started shifting cases to administrative adjudication three years ago, and the policy was fully rolled out in late 2012, Theriault said.

"This wasn't an option available to officers before," he said.

Of the 30 theft-related administrative adjudication citations issued since November 2012, only Monday's was about an unpaid cab fare, Theriault said.

The goal of the hearing is to provide restitution to the victims, Theriault said.

"It's simply a difference of strategy," he said. "We're relying on our experience to decide on our course of action."

Jamie Hjelm has complained before about the lack of an arrest by Elgin police.

In early December, a cab passenger opened the door while the cab was moving, damaging it and a parked car. Police didn't arrest the passenger, and instead issued a traffic accident report stating the driver was at fault.

The driver will be penalized by his insurance company, while Jaime Hjelm was stuck with paying for about $900 in damage, she said.

In a Dec. 20 email to council members, Elgin Police Jeff Swoboda said the passenger didn't intend to cause damage. The Kane County state's attorney's office agreed police made the right decision in forgoing criminal charges, he said.

Jaime Hjelm also complained that Dec. 15 a police officer threatened to arrest a dispatcher when the dispatcher couldn't provide information about where a cab dropped off a female passenger who'd gone missing.

The officer then called Naomi Hjelm at home at 4 a.m. to get the information, she said.

It was critically important to find the passenger because the temperature was in the single digits, Swoboda said.

"Compliance with the request was met with resistance," he said. The woman was safely located after the information was provided by the cab company.

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