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Impound cars of litterers and fine them $1,500, alderman proposes

Updated: July 7, 2013 12:45PM

Chicago motorists who open their car and SUV windows, dump their trash and turn Chicago streets into a dumping ground would risk losing their wheels and their wallets, under a crackdown proposed Wednesday by an influential alderman.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, wants to impound the vehicles of those who commit the driver version of fly dumping. He also wants to dramatically increase the fines — from a current range of $50-$150 to $1,500 a pop.

Vehicle impoundment — and the hefty towing and storage fees that come with it — has become a catch-all penalty for an array of offenses ranging from prostitution to loud music-playing and curfew violations.

It might sound a bit harsh to use it to punish littering, but Brookins said it shouldn’t.

“They’re throwing diapers. They are throwing McDonald’s wrappers, paper and all types of fast-food condiments out of the window. They are actually even throwing used condoms out the window. It is bad. It is nasty. It’s a public health concern, and it’s got to stop,” Brookins said, after introducing the ordinance at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“We’re aiming to stop people from making our wards look like a giant trash can. People pull up to a stop sign. They throw out what appears to be a small garbage bag full of trash on our streets, and we’re sick and tired of it.”

It’s one thing to have a stiff penalty on the books. It’s quite another to get Chicago Police officers to enforce the new law when they’re tied up responding to more serious crimes when they’re not answering emergency calls.

“If the mayor and the police superintendent know that this is a significant quality-of-life concern to residents in our wards, they will start enforcing these fines. ... We can only hope they will enforce it,” Brookins said.

“If one or two people [are] made examples of, the rest of the citizens will get the message that they [need to] hold the trash in their car until they can safely get to a trash can which, in large parts of the city are on every block.”

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