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How to Use the Ticket Trap, Our New Database That Lets You Explore How Chicago Tickets Motorists and Collects Debt

We hope you’ll play around with it and let us know how we can make it better.

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

This week, we published a new database that lets you explore how ticketing, debt and the rates at which people appeal their tickets compare across Chicago’s 50 wards. We call it The Ticket Trap. Why? Because as our reporting over the past year has shown, thousands of Chicago motorists — particularly residents of low-income and black neighborhoods — lose their right to drive or lose their vehicles. Many file for bankruptcy as a way out.

Here are some of the ways we think you can use The Ticket Trap. I hope you play around with it, tell us what you did and what more you’d like to be able to do with it.

Learn About Your Ward

Type your address in the search bar at the top. We think a lot of folks might want to see what’s going on where they live, work or spend time.

Once you’ve looked up an address, the site takes you to a page with ward-level information, including a map of where tickets are issued and more details and context. This is where we’d most love your input as we refine and add to these pages, possibly at the block level. What else would you like to see about ticketing in your community?

Sort and Compare Wards

If you want to understand the dynamics of ticketing and debt around the city, the homepage provides many ways to look at trends, including by ward.

Just click the orange buttons to choose the topic you’re interested in, from which ward owes the most to how ticket types differ by ward. Below the buttons, we have categories that let you dig a little deeper. When you click on those categories, the ward “cards” (think: baseball cards!) automatically sort themselves from highest to lowest rank in that category. Click the button again, and the cards reorder from lowest to highest.

Some Takeaways:

  • Few drivers contest tickets, but when they do there’s a better than 50 percent chance of being found not liable, regardless of where the ticket was issued. Tickets issued in majority Latino wards are contested the least.
  • After the 42nd Ward, which includes some of the busiest parts of downtown, the eight wards with the largest outstanding debt for parking tickets are majority black.
  • Citywide, police write 39 percent of parking tickets; the rest are issued by city parking enforcement aides, private contractors and others. Police issue a disproportionate share in majority black wards. In some wards, as much as 80 percent of tickets are written by police.
  • Majority black wards receive a larger share of $200 citations for not having a vehicle stickers than other wards, while $50 expired meter and $60 street cleaning citations are more common in other parts of the city.

Keep checking the site for upgrades over the coming weeks, and please send me a note with questions or suggestions at [email protected].

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David Eads

David Eads is a former news applications developer at ProPublica Illinois, where he combined journalism with software development.

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