Waukegan police accused of selective law enforcement
By Dan Moran email@example.com | @NewsSunDanMoran October 9, 2013 12:00PM
A vehicle without a front license plate parked in a lot along Washington Street in Waukegan. The Waukegan Police Transportation Division has increased enforcement for license plates violators. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 11, 2013 11:58AM
The issue of tickets written for failure to display a front license plate cropped up again in Waukegan on Monday when local activist Chris “Brotha” Blanks showed the City Council photos of vehicles allegedly owned by city employees without front plates.
Blanks, who drew focus to the issue late last year when he displayed a photo of then-city clerk Wayne Motley’s vehicle without a front plate, held up photos of two SUVs — one that he said has been seen in the Waukegan Police Department employee lot since December 2012 and another in a space reserved outside City Hall for the corporation counsel.
“This is still falling under the basis of what we consider to be hypocritical and unfair enforcement of the law,” said Blanks, founder of the Lake County chapter of the National Action Network. “You can’t be hypocritical if you’re going to hold the citizens accountable. Clean up your own backyard first. It’s only right.”
City attorney Steve Martin confirmed Tuesday, Oct. 8, that he owns the Chevrolet Silverado seen in one of the photos displayed by Blanks. He added that the SUV was not manufactured with a front license-plate mounting, and the aftermarket version he used fell off.
“I’ve been trying to locate a new one,” Martin said. “I want to thank Mr. Blanks for bringing it to my attention.”
Last December, Blanks first called the matter to the council’s attention with the photo of Motley’s vehicle, and Motley — who has since been elected mayor — eventually corrected the situation. In January, police announced that there would be an increased focus on issuing tickets for failure to display a front plate.
Illinois law requires license plates on most passenger vehicles to be attached to both the front and rear. The penalty for a violation ranges from a fine of $35 for a local ordinance ticket to $120 if written as a state violation.
Blanks said he revisited the issue in part because of the case of a local man, Willie Ra, who was ticketed for failure to display a city sticker on a recently-purchased vehicle. Ra told the council on Monday that he was trying to get the car in compliance with all requirements when the ticket was issued.
“I got insurance for it, I got plates for it,” Ra said. “On Oct. 1, I received the plates and put them on my car. And later that night — actually, it was 2:33 in the morning — I got a ticket for not having a city sticker.
“I see that as being unfair to me because I feel I didn’t have enough time to purchase a city sticker. I just wanted to let you know that there’s something wrong with that,” Ra added. “I shouldn’t have to pay the ticket, because I wasn’t given the time to do what I had to do.”
“We can’t have you coming into the community,” said Blanks, “and issuing tickets to the citizens, (like) this man who just got a job and is trying to go back and forth to work, when you’re not holding yourselves accountable. That’s not right. That’s not fair.”