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2 Investigators: City Residents Complain Faulty Pictures Not Proof Of Parking Violations

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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s the newest thing: You get a notice of a parking ticket in the mail, along with so-called evidence that the violation occurred. But, viewers have complained to the CBS 2 Investigators that the photographic proof taken by city workers may prove nothing at all. Pam Zekman tells us what’s going on here.

They are known as “photo-enforced” parking tickets and last year the city collected $88 million in fines from them. But are they really evidence? It appears some of the ticket writers need more training on what pictures to take and how to take them.

One photo is supposedly evidence that a car was illegally parked on street cleaning day. It shows the street where the violation supposedly occurred, but there is no car present in the picture.

“I was shocked,” said Kathleen Murray. “I just couldn’t believe they wrote a ticket for a car that wasn’t there.”

Murray says she was parked on the opposite side of where they were street cleaning.

“So I wouldn’t get a ticket,” Murray said. “But I got a ticket anyway.”

Murray received a $50 “photo-enforced” ticket in the mail along with a pair of pictures.

But, Murray says the pictures didn’t prove anything.

“Evidence to me would be to have… my car in the photo,” said Murray.

And then there’s a $65 “photo-enforced” ticket that Abe Hassan received for an expired parking meter. It included a shot of Hassan’s license plate and a blurry picture of his windshield.

The ticket reads: “Photos are taken as evidence that a violation occurred.”

“Looking at it, I noticed wait a second, what’s the evidence they have here?” Hassan said.

Hassan says he fed the meter, then placed the receipt curbside on passenger side of his dashboard, as instructed on the parking receipt.

But the ticket writer took the picture from the driver’s side of the car.

Hassan says if the ticket writer had taken the picture from the passenger side of the car the outcome would have been much different.

“They would have seen that I had at least eight minutes left,” said Hassan

Both Murray and Hassan contested their tickets through the mail, claiming the city’s pictures didn’t prove any violations.

But, an administrative hearing officer ruled: “that the violation occurred.”

“These pictures do not show whether a violation occurred or not, simple as that,” said former Chicago hearing officer Sheldon Zeiger. “My concern is that it may intimidate some citizens saying, ‘Look. I got pictures of you. You’re guilty. Pay.'”

Now Hassan says he’ll pay because it costs more to fight it in court.

And Murray says the system should be changed.

“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ dollars to be giving these people cameras to take pictures for whats the purpose. They should prove something,” said Murray.

A city spokesman said the city is buying better cameras. He also said photographs are not required to issue a violation or prove it– and to fight a ticket, you still have to put up a defense of your own.

In the case of “photo-enforced” tickets sent out by mail, a car owner won’t get notice of the violation until a couple days after it allegedly occurred, making it difficult — if not impossible — for them to prove their innocence with a photo, unlike when a ticket is placed on their windshield at the time it is issued.

As for Murray’s and Hassan’s tickets the city spokesman said, “there is nothing wrong with the pictures associated with these violations.”

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