CHICAGO (CBS) — Some drivers have figured out how to avoid paying for parking -– and how to avoid parking tickets.
They’ve been parking for free for months, if not years, and it’s costing the city tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
CBS 2’s Dave Savini investigates.
Some motorists have figured out how to cheat the parking system on the streets around the Cook County Courthouse on Harrison Street.
While the rest of us have to pay the meter, day after day they squeeze into illegal parking spots in tow zones.
One car got a parking ticket because the time on the meter expired. But nearby, another car got a free pass because of something in the window: a Chicago police officer’s uniform.
The 2 Investigators found uniforms and other police property from Chicago, Cook County and even Niles being used to park illegally and free of charge.
One woman motorist whose vehicle had a Niles police uniform on her dashboard refused to answer questions.
CBS 2 called Niles police, but they had never heard of the woman. When the police agency launched an investigation, it was found she bought it on Craigslist five years ago.
That was news to Chicago Police Officer Mike Madigan.
He admits he doesn’t ticket cars with uniforms in the window.
One man’s car had such a signal. But he’s not a cop. He’s a cashier for the courthouse.
Other drivers use Fraternal Order of Police material to ward off tickets.
Catrinia Daley was ticketed by Officer Madigan minutes after the meter expired. But the car behind hers got a pass because it had a uniform displayed.
“Oh, wow, a $50 fine and I am unemployed,” Daley said. “How about that?”
Madigan wouldn’t say why he allows the discrepancy to occur.
Finally, CBS 2 observed a courthouse worker using a sheriff’s uniform. She said a family member is a police officer.
Records show the worker is employed at the office of the chief judge and makes more than $65,000 a year.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Department has launched an internal investigation.
So far, Niles has retrieved its police uniform and given that woman a warning.
A spokesperson from the Chicago Police Department did not comment on why Officer Madigan did not ticket people using police property in their cars.
Lt. Maureen Biggane from the department’s News Affairs division would only say this:
“Members of the Chicago Police Department are expected to secure legal parking. In addition, uniform stores are expected to sell official uniform items only to properly credentialed members of law enforcement. Anyone found to be representing himself as a member of law enforcement with an official uniform item can be charged under state statute.”