Daycare, police clash over downtown parking

March 29, 2012 3:15:47 PM PDT
A Chicago daycare center in the Loop says parking spaces designated for parents to safely drop off their children are being misused by police officers.

Some say the officers are putting children in harm's way by taking the parking spots.

Officers and various government workers appear to be using their jobs to get free parking, and no one is stopping them. The perk may have gone unnoticed, but there is now concern that some of the parkers are putting children who attend a downtown daycare center in danger.

The daycare center owner says, over the last two years, she has called the local alderman and the police commander for the downtown district. But nothing has changed.

Officers in marked squad cars frequently park anywhere they please. Up and down Lake Street, on block after block, there are parking spots specifically reserved for marked police vehicles. It is so officers can get to court and back out on the streets quickly.

Thursday, parent Sam Atassi had some trouble trying to drop off his two kids at daycare. There were police cars parked in the two loading zone spaces out front, spaces the daycare pays the city $350 a year to leave empty. They are frequently filled.

"Throughout this street there are spots for 20 police cars," Atassi said. "This is the only one not marked for them, so I don't know why they keep using it.

ABC 7 saw one Chicago Police officer take off the unit number atop his car and walk away. When notified the area was reserved as a loading zone for the daycare, the officer moved his car.

A few minutes later a state trooper parked in the loading zone, walked away, saw ABC 7's camera, then decided to find another spot.

"Typically, Monday through Thursdays, you'll find two, three, or four government vehicles parked in these spots," said a parent named Jim who declined to give his last name.

Parents and the daycare owner worry double parking creates double the danger.

"They're parking next to the parked car, they're opening the doors, and the children are coming out, and that's what worries me," said daycare center owner Leah Nelson. "What's to keep somebody from bumping into the back of the stopped car and having a child out there? I'm very fearful of it."

A half-block away there is an entire street lined with government and personal vehicles. Their owners have no problems parking in a tow zone because sheriff's police placards and other items send a signal: Do not ticket.

Spokespeople for the Cook County Sheriff, Chicago Police and Illinois State Police say they will remind their staff members to follow appropriate parking laws.

One officer who ABC 7 caught parking in the daycare loading zone claimed the signs were not clear.