Boots await offenders of parking lot rules
By Judy Masterson firstname.lastname@example.org | @JudyReport December 13, 2013 7:24PM
Waukegan High School parent Maria Flores is one of dozens who have been booted by a Chicago security firm in recent weeks while dropping their children off at the school's Washington Campus. Chicago Parking Management says parents are dropping off their students on private property. | Judy Masterson/Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 15, 2014 6:11AM
It may be legal, but it’s a nasty piece of enforcement, say Waukegan High School security guards about a recent flurry of vehicle booting near the school.
“It’s awful what they’re doing − and just before Christmas,” said a security employee who works at the school’s Washington Campus.
The employee, and others who asked not to be identified because they don’t have permission to speak publicly about school issues, said they have watched in recent weeks as dozens of drivers who drop off and pick up students at the school at 1011 Washington St. have been boxed-in by SUVs, as men, dressed in uniforms, jump out and boot their vehicles.
Maria Flores of Waukegan is one of the latest drivers who had to cough up $125 in cash or credit to get the boot removed after she pulled into a parking lot at 1012 W. Washington St., directly north of the school on Friday, Dec. 13.
Flores, who spoke little English, seemed bewildered as she sat inside her minivan where she had tried to exit the parking lot, a big orange lock clamped to her left rear tire.
A small sign in English on the shuttered car detailing shop at the address warned that interlopers “will be immobilized immediately.”
WHS sophomore Eduardo Flores said it was the first time his mother had dropped him off at that spot. He said the men pulled up behind her as she let him out and immediately booted the vehicle.
“She was in shock,” Flores said. “It seems unfair − whether it’s legal or illegal.”
Drivers who pull through the parking lot of the Clothesline laundry at 1000 W. Washington St. are also being booted.
A check of tax records with the Lake County Assessor’s Office shows both buildings are owned by Robert Lempa of Lake Villa.
Booting is also going on at Family Dollar, 1106 Washington St., which sits at the school’s northwest corner.
Efforts to reach Lempa and other business owners along Washington Street were unsuccessful. But 4th Ward Alderman Harold Beadling said they brought in Chicago Parking Management Inc. to boot offenders because WHS parents were taking over the lots, denying their customers access.
“They tried to tell people to leave and they wouldn’t leave,” Beadling said. “We have to support these business owners. They’re paying the taxes.”
But some are questioning the legality of the tactics — drivers being booted while they’re still behind the wheel.
“They could give them a warning,” said another school security worker.
Waukegan city spokesman David Motley said he checked with vacationing city attorney Steve Martin who was unaware of the situation.
“He’ll look into it and come up with a definitive answer next week,” Motley said.
Traffic is congested outside the school, where left turns onto Jackson street are prohibited at peak traffic times. As a result, many parents dip into nearby commercial parking lots.
“It’s unfortunate that the owner of those lots would be so aggressive in booting and towing cars, but that’s obviously something we can’t control,” said Nick Alajakis, District 60 spokesman.
Alajakis said liability concerns prohibit any effort by the district to compromise on a solution with business owners.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Alajakis said. “We ask that parents don’t park in those lots. We have areas where students can be dropped off, along Victory Street and Jackson Street.”
Asked about English-only warning signs, Alajakis noted that many businesses along Washington Street attract Spanish-speaking customers.
“You’d think their signs would also cater to their bilingual customer base,” he said.