A new ordinance passed by the village council Monday determines rules for private auto booting companies who monitor commercial parking lots in Forest Park. The ordinance was passed in-part due to customer complaints from a strip mall lot at 1215 S. Harlem Ave.
The owners of the strip mall, Universal Property Management, hired MC Parking Management, of Chicago, to boot customers who park on the strip mall lot and then walk off the property. The half-vacant mall is just south of Walgreen’s.
Forest Parker Julianne Sloan complained to the village after MC Parking booted her minivan as she returned a DVD to the Walgreen’s on New Year’s Eve last year. She was one of about 90 auto owners who had cars booted in the past 12 months.
Signs warn customers that they cannot leave the property without getting a boot on their car.
“There’s a 12 x 18 inch sign on every pillar in that parking lot,” said Jason Lopez, manager of MC Parking.
Private booting is a relatively new business model. Unlike the towing industry, there is no specific state legislation that covers it, according to Illinois Commerce Commission Chief of Police Craig Baner. As a result, every municipality must write their own rules for booting companies.
The new Forest Park ordinance caps the amount of money charged to release a booted car at $100.
“We wanted to limit those firms that may have been too heavy-handed when booting vehicles,” said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. Previously, MC Parking charged $185 and then reduced the price to $125 to remove a boot. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the boot employees negotiated with car owners and in some instances accepted whatever cash the person had on-hand.
The new ordinance also stipulates that booting companies must notify the Forest Park police within 15 minutes of booting a vehicle. “We want to know before our police desk starts getting phone calls from booted vehicle owners,” said Gillian.
MC Employees wear a T-shirt uniform and carry an ID with their first and last name and the address of the company, said Lopez. For two weeks they have also begun to videotape customers leaving the property. Typically trespassing parkers go to Walgreen’s, the law office next door or an apartment building across the street in Berwyn, Lopez said.
When construction closed the entrance to the Walgreen’s lot April 18, MC Parking booted 18 customers in one day, Lopez said. He’s also predicting that upcoming construction along Harlem will result in more trespassing parkers.
“We’re not trying to make the Forest Park people upset or the make the mayor mad. We have lots of signs up and we video.”