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Deputies brace for backlash as cellphone ban kicks in Monday at 26th and Cal

Updated: May 16, 2013 6:37AM

Authorities expect to encounter “a number of upset people” Monday when enforcement of a full ban on cellphones and other electronic devices begins at Cook County’s George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 people come into the courthouse — one of the busiest in the country — on a daily basis, according to Cook County Sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki. But he said just 180 storage lockers will be available for people who use public transportation to get to the courthouse.

That may not be enough but Anna Ashcraft, the county’s director of real estate management, said that’s simply all the storage space that’s available.

“We encourage people to leave their devices at home, or if traveling by car, to leave their devices in their cars,” Ashcraft said in a prepared statement.

The ban, first announced Jan. 11, is expected to be phased in at the remaining Cook County courthouses — except for the Richard J. Daley Center — in the coming months.

Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans has said it makes more sense to begin enforcement of the ban at the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California because the potential for security breaches there is highest.

Signs hung outside the courthouse Sunday warning of the ban. And as usual, deputies found themselves verbally scolding visitors whose cellphones went off during bond court.

The ban nearly went into full effect in January. But Evans, apparently responding to concerns about the significant indigent population arriving at the courthouse via public transportation, announced a three-month grace period that ends Monday.

Certain people are exempted from the ban, including current or former judges, licensed attorneys, news media, government employees, anyone reporting for jury duty and people with disabilities who require electronic devices to communicate.

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