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Chief seeks to shoot down booking fee idea

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Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington urged aldermen Monday night not to try to impose a city booking fee on people his department arrests.

Eddington said the fee would be unlikely to generate enough revenue to cover the cost of administering it.

And he said it would almost certainly face a court challenge on consitutional grounds.

Eddington said a $30 fee might hypothetically raise $33,000 from the nearly 1,100 people arrested on average in each of the last three years — if everyone arrested paid.

But he said the city sees collection rates as low as 25 percent for curfew law violations and 35 percent for leash law violations, while it gets higher collection rates for traffic violations involving seat belts, 73 percent, and cell phone use, 81 percent.

He said that as a practical matter, persons arrested would certainly ask, "If I pay the fee do I get to go home now?" And his officers would have to answer, "No, you still have to wait to go before a judge in Skokie to have bond set."

The use of booking fees has become more popular in localities around the country, from Denver to Porter County, Ind., as officials have looked for new revenue streams in difficult financial times.

The aldermen took no action on the issuel, which was presented as a discussion item, rather than an ordinance ready for adoption.

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