Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube

The “Terrible” Consequences of Chicago’s Ticketing Policies

The city tried to raise revenues by hiking the cost of sticker tickets, but instead hurt motorists in low-income, black neighborhoods.

This story was first published in ProPublica Illinois’ weekly newsletter. Sign up for that here.

On Thursday, in partnership with WBEZ, we published the latest in our series of investigations into Chicago’s ticketing practices, pinpointing how the city raised the cost of city vehicle sticker tickets as a way to bring in millions of dollars in revenue. That extra revenue didn’t materialize. Instead, the increase in ticket cost disproportionately impacted black Chicagoans, helping force some black motorists into substantial debt, to lose their licenses, lose their cars and even declare bankruptcy.

Melissa Sanchez and WBEZ reporter Elliott Ramos talked about this story on WBEZ and WVON and asked people to call in. And did they.

We’ve also been hearing from people about their experiences: a personal Twitter thread detailing struggles to pay tickets; a retweet from @eveewing that points to the “devastating … but not surprising” nature of this; and an observation about the slew of recent stories about ticketing black Chicago. We’ve noticed that, too.

So we’ve rounded up a couple of those stories.

Black cyclists are ticketed at higher rates for bicycling violations, reports The Chicago Reader. And according to the Chicago Tribune, a bike ticket can cost from $50 to $200. At a bicycle advisory meeting, the Chicago Police Department acknowledged that police are using bike tickets, as well as motor vehicle stops, as a strategy to help intercept illegal guns and drugs in high-crime neighborhoods.

“The fact that they’re admitting to enforcing the law differently in different kinds of communities is shocking,” Aditi Singh, a staff attorney with the criminal justice reform group Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, told The Reader. “It does appear that the police are allowed to make pretext traffic stops, but what they’re admitting to is disproportionate minority contact.”

Winter-related tickets also disproportionately affect minority communities. The category of winter-related tickets includes violating the overnight parking ban, parking on the street when it snows two inches or more and failing to shovel sidewalks. According to WBEZ, tickets for unshoveled sidewalks range from $50 to $1,000, depending whether the violation occurs on personal property or at a business. Citations seem to be concentrated in Englewood.

What other instances of ticketing are we missing? Let us know.

Where Else We’ve Been

Listen to WNYC: Duaa Eldeib spoke about children being held beyond medical necessity in Illinois psychiatric hospitals.

Listen to WBEZ: Jodi Cohen discussed how the University of Illinois at Chicago used the definition of the word “complaint” to withhold information regarding a nationally known psychiatrist’s clinical trial on children with bipolar disorder that was shuttered for misconduct.

Listen to The 21st: Mick Dumke talked about his work on error-ridden gang databases used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies with potentially troubling consequences.

Filed under:

Protect Independent Journalism

This story you’ve just finished was funded by our readers. We hope it inspires you to make a gift to ProPublica so that we can publish more investigations like this one that hold people in power to account and produce real change.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that produces nonpartisan, evidence-based journalism to expose injustice, corruption and wrongdoing. We were founded over 10 years ago to fill a growing hole in journalism: Newsrooms were (and still are) shrinking, and legacy funding models are failing. Deep-dive reporting like ours is slow and expensive, and investigative journalism is a luxury in many newsrooms today — but it remains as critical as ever to democracy and our civic life. More than a decade (and six Pulitzer Prizes) later, ProPublica has built one of the largest investigative newsrooms in the country. Our work has spurred reform through legislation, at the voting booth and inside our nation’s most important institutions.

Your donation today will help us ensure that we can continue this critical work. From the climate crisis, to racial justice, to wealth inequality and much more, we are busier than ever covering stories you won’t see anywhere else. Make your gift of any amount today and join the tens of thousands of ProPublicans across the country, standing up for the power of independent journalism to produce real, lasting change. Thank you.

Donate Now

Helga Salinas

Helga Salinas is a former engagement reporting fellow at ProPublica Illinois.

More from ProPublica

Current site Current page