North Riverside has had a vehicle immobilization (that’s technical-speak for “booting”) ordinance on its books since 2008, but until now the police department has not enforced it.

That’s about to change.

By the end of the month or in early August, scofflaws who have more than five unpaid parking or standing violation tickets on the books could have their vehicles booted. What’s paving the way for the new policy is the addition of two new part-time positions within the police department – public service aides.

One of the two public service aides, or PSAs, has been hired and started work on July 1. He is former and recently retired North Riverside Police Officer Peter Culafic, who is currently in the midst of compiling data on just how many people could be targeted by the new booting effort. At least one multiple offender, said Police Chief Anthony Garvey, is a North Riverside resident who has 35 unpaid tickets.

“[Culafic is] working with the records department, researching records on unpaid violations in preparation for the vehicle immobilization program,” said Garvey.

In addition, Culafic will also be doing other tasks, such as writing parking tickets, writing vehicle sticker violation tickets, doing police department vehicle maintenance checks, responding to school crossings at corners without crossing guards and other duties “to allow police officers to concentrate on more serious calls for service.”

According to the vehicle immobilization ordinance on the books, the village can boot any vehicle with five or more unpaid tickets. However, said Garvey, the village is likely to start going after the worst offenders first.

“We’ll start out with the high-end violators,” said Garvey. “The goal is to get some of that revenue coming in to us.”

The village board, during its 2012-13 budget discussions this spring, also discussed casting a wider net to recover revenue by going after ticket scofflaws, including those who have been issued red-light camera tickets, by joining the Illinois comptroller’s debt recovery program.

Before any income tax refunds are issued, unpaid debts for things like parking tickets, can be deducted from the refund and forwarded to the agency owed the money. However, that only happens once a year. The vehicle immobilization program will operate year round.

The owners of vehicles targeted for vehicle immobilization will get a letter in the mail, which will give them 21 days to request a hearing to contest the tickets or pay them. After 21 days, police will seek to boot targeted vehicles parked on the public way or at North Riverside Park Mall, which allows North Riverside police to enforce such ordinances in their lots.

Once booted, the owner will have 48 hours to pay the unpaid tickets and the $100 booting fee. If that deadline isn’t met, the village will tow the booted vehicle, and the owner will also be responsible for towing and storage fees.

A second PSA is also slated to be hired within the next month, said Garvey. The pay for the position is $18 an hour and the positions are part-time, averaging about 20 hours a week each or about $37,400 a year, combined. The position does not come with health insurance or pension benefits, said Garvey.

PSAs are not sworn police officers and will not carry handguns. However, PSAs will be trained to handle Tasers and pepper spray. They will also have access to police computer records. The position differs from the community service officers employed by the village. Those officers function as auxiliary officers and provide security on village property, in parks and at village events.

North Riverside cop contract headed for arbitration

When it comes to getting contracts hammered out with its union employees, North Riverside has had a tough time in recent years.

In August 2011, the village and its firefighters finally inked a new deal more than two years after the old contract expired. The deal made substantial changes to the way union employees contributed for health insurance premiums and eliminated heavily discounted lifetime post-retirement health insurance benefits for firefighters and their families.

On April 30, 2010, the contract between the village and members of the Fraternal Order of Police expired and still is not close to a resolution. The two sides are far enough apart that both sides have a date in October to make their cases before an arbitrator.

Unless both sides can agree to come back to the table and negotiate a deal before that time, the arbitrator will decide the terms of a new contract.

Police Chief Anthony Garvey would not specifically discuss the issues still unresolved, but he said, “The biggest part of it boils down to wages and health insurance like every other contract.”

The village has also recently begun negotiations with police dispatchers, who are also represented by the Fraternal Order of Police. Their contract expired on Dec. 31, 2011. It’s likely that contract will remain unresolved until North Riverside and its police officers can come to an agreement, either through negotiation or arbitration.