Elgin OKs 24 hours' notice before impounding private property on public spaces

Elgin will enforce stricter rules about private property left in public spaces starting next month, city officials said.

The city council unanimously voted Wednesday to approve the ordinance changes, which include giving people 24 hours' notice, instead of seven days, before their property is impounded.

Also, the new rules will apply to the entire city, not just downtown.

The city will use the next 30 days to put the process in place and inform people - presumably the homeless - who've been leaving their belongings in public that the changes are coming, Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez said.

The word has started spreading and already there has been a decrease in items left out, particularly in parking garages, she said.

The goal is to provide "clean, safe, accessible" public spaces for everyone, she said.

Under the new rule, notices will be posted on the person's property asking for its removal within 24 hours.

The removal will be done by public works staff and police officers, so there will be a police report and body camera recording, Valdez said.

Hazardous materials, including soiled items, will be disposed of immediately. Valuable items, such as IDs, cellphones and wallets, will be stored at the police department, and everything else in a secure area of the Fulton Street parking garage.

City staff members will post a notice explaining how to retrieve the property within 30 days, and all items will be inventoried, Valdez said.

After that, property valued under $1,000 would be sold, disposed of or donated.

Property valued over $1,000 would be auctioned off and proceeds put in a trust for 30 days and then into the general fund, Valdez said.

Notices would be posted about all of that, with newspaper notices about auctions, she said.

Mayor David Kaptain, who previously cast a "no" vote at the committee of the whole meeting, said he was happy city staff members came up with a reasonable process that protects people's rights.

The recent increase in items left on public property is related to an increase in "very well-meaning individuals" who are distributing blankets and tents to people in need, Valdez said.

"By no means do we want to discourage people from giving," she said, "but there are systems in place, and we ask that people donate to some of our established (organizations)."

The overnight homeless shelter PADS and the daytime shelter Wayside Cross Ministries offer storage and there is a concerted effort to make that known to people in need, Valdez said.

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