By Lauren Victory


CHICAGO (CBS)–Imagine coming out of your house to go to work, but your car is nowhere to be seen.

Thousands of Chicagoans have found themselves in this position over the last few months, but it’s not because they were parked illegally.

In the dead of winter, a disappearing act is happening across the city.

City workers are allowed to tow vehicles in their way, leaving some car owners in the cold.

Jordan Zeman discovered his car missing one morning.

“My first immediate thought was, ‘it’s stolen,’ so I think I stood there for a while thinking, ‘what do I do now? Like do I call the police?’”

Her mind racing, Zeman considered the city auto pound.

Her missing car was puzzling because there were no warning signs in the Humboldt Park neighborhood where the car had been parked.

“I thought I was nuts,” Zeman said. “I thought this was weird. I don’t know if this is something that happens to people?”

She’s certainly not alone. Data shows 4,756 people came outside to find empty parking spots, during just the past three months.

That’s about 52 cars moved every day by the city, according to data from the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Over a 90 day period, 444 vehicles were towed for a TV shoot. Recently on Leavitt Street, three cars went missing for “filming reasons.” but no signs warning drivers of restrictions were found posted on the street.

In the same neighborhood, 600 vehicles were towed for “forestry” relocation. CBS 2 found  found some cars dropped more than three miles away.

Data shows 516 cars were moved for “water management” work; 244 were moved for People’s Gas; and another 1,105 were simply classified “other.”

Almost half of the relocations occurred between 5 and 10 a.m., the data shows.

Zeman’s car wound up a few blocks away on Hirsch and Artesian—a headscratcher.

“That was a huge relief,” she said. “Having no note and no indication of why it happened was really bizarre.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Streets and Sanitation said moving cars is “absolutely necessary” to keep the city up and running.

The city says vehicle relocations are usually done with advance warning, but emergencies sometimes pop up.

There is not data to show how many cars were moved without notice. Sometimes there are signs posted to warn of city work but other times, cars are moved without warning.  If a car is moved, the city doesn’t provide a note, e-mail or call to inform the car owner.

The city says motorists can call 311 or check their website.

There are no fines for residents whose cars are moved.

Lauren Victory