More than 475,000 erroneous parking tickets were issued by the city of Chicago between 2012 and 2018, according to a report released Tuesday by the University of Illinois-Chicago Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy.
But, geographically, the mistakes weren’t on par with the typical level of racial inequities and segregation experienced in the city.
“There’s a running truism that if you look at one map of inequality of Chicago, it’s almost as though you’ve seen every other map, as well. The erroneous parking tickets didn’t actually map that way,” said Kasey Henricks, author of the new report.
Most of the tickets in error were concentrated in neighborhoods adjacent to the central business district.
“Where are mistaken tickets issued in Chicago? Like grains of sand that cling to your body after a beach day at the Lake, these tickets have found their way into every nook and cranny of the city. No community area escapes them,” the report said.
The analysis covered seven different types of violations where parking is restricted based upon factors of space, time, and weather. They include tickets issued in the Loop for expired meters or in areas where downtown parking is banned.
They also include tickets issued across the city in areas when street cleaning is scheduled, when special events are being held nearby, in areas where parking is restricted to residents only or where there are weather-related parking bans.
Henricks, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee, analyzed 3.6 million parking tickets written between Aug. 1, 2012, and May 18, 2018. The analysis found that 13% of those tickets — roughly 1 out of every 8 — were issued under conditions when parking restrictions did not apply. Street cleaning tickets accounted for two out of every three tickets in error.
Many Chicago drivers have a story about a parking ticket. Henricks said she heard anecdotes about mistakes, and “I just wondered, what if we actually tried to take that whole idea and actually quantify it and see how much of that story actually applies to a much broader Chicago?”
According to the report:
During the six-year study period, tickets included in the analysis generated $27.5 million in revenue while $8 million in unsettled debt remains.
Patrol officers issued 18.5% of all tickets analyzed, but they were responsible for a higher rate — 24.8% — of the tickets written in error. By contrast, their administrative peers — typically employees of the city’s departments of finance or streets and sanitation — accounted for a much larger percentage of tickets overall at 81.5% but a lower share of the errored tickets at 75%. Errors committed by patrol officers were concentrated in majority-Black neighborhoods.
Only 7% of tickets written under false pretenses were contested, and the percentage was even lower among many Latinx community areas.
As many as 22% of errored tickets were subject to late penalties, which result either from not paying the fine within 14 days or setting up an in-person appeal within 21 days. The original fine doubles, and another 22% in collections fees can be added. Most of these escalating penalties fall on Black community areas.
Henricks said this project is a “love letter to Chicago journalists” who have reported on parking tickets for years — including WBEZ. The report calls for improved technology that can verify the circumstances of the tickets issued in real time.
“That’s one remedy. But that doesn’t do anything in terms of restorative justice for all the people that have already been devastated by these practices,” Henricks said.