10.12.2010Irate drivers may have found one way to deal with Chicago's new parking meters.
Twenty of the 200-pound electronic parking pay machines have been stolen throughout Chicago since Sept. 17, police department spokesman Roderick Drew said in an e-mail. It isn't known how much cash may have been taken from the stolen machines, he said.
Four of the pay machines have been recovered, Drew said.
Drivers who paid for parking with a credit card shouldn't be concerned about their information being stolen because the machines don't store credit card numbers, Drew said.
Although the thefts have been reported citywide, nearly half have occurred in the Grand Central Area on the Northwest Side, he said.
"Area 5 Detectives have been working with LAZ Parking to address this issue. Residents who witness vandalism or suspicious behavior should call police immediately," Drew said.
Police are still investigating, he said.
Nearly two years ago, the city signed a 75-year parking meter lease with Chicago Parking Meters LLC that led to soaring rates and initial troubles with jammed, broken and error-prone meters that angered many drivers.
Avis LaVelle, a spokeswoman for Chicago Parking Meters LLC, said in a statement she could not confirm the reports of thefts.
But she added, "Theft or destruction of pay boxes and meters is regarded as a very serious offense and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
If a driver comes across a parking spot with a missing pay box, he or she should find another nearby box, LaVelle said.
If there is no box, the driver can park, then should call the customer service line of meter operator LAZ Parking at ... to notify the company of the missing box. That call is used as "documentation of defense in the event of a possible citation," LaVelle said.