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Cameras in the Park To Catch Dog Poop Scofflaws? Alderman Pitches Idea

By Stephanie Lulay | January 22, 2015 6:32am
 Mary Bartelme Park in the West Loop.
Mary Bartelme Park in the West Loop.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

WEST LOOP — Cameras that would catch owners who fail to clean up their dog's doo is one of the ideas being considered to curb dog-related issues at Mary Bartelme Park in the West Loop.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) is considering installing cameras around the park to solve the park's dog problems, Solis spokeswoman Stacy Raker confirmed.

"It would be the discreet ones, the low-profile ones," said Armando Chacon, treasurer of the park's advisory council.

Details of the how such a program would be implemented — or enforced — were not discussed by the council after Solis floated the idea, and the council made it clear it wasn't ready to go that route at this point.

 A plastic pet waste bag containing dog poop lays in the snow at Mary Bartelme Park.
A plastic pet waste bag containing dog poop lays in the snow at Mary Bartelme Park.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

Stephanie Lulay discusses the possibility of cameras in the park:

Despite a designated dog area, irresponsible dog owners are increasingly bucking the park's rules on pet poop and allowing their dogs to roam off-leash, according to the park's board. The dog problems have yielded an "overwhelming" number of complaints from people who use the park.

Police soon may start issuing tickets to unruly dog owners, too. Solis has committed to asking officers to ticket in the park, Chacon said.

"We have punted long enough on this issue," he said at a park council meeting this week. "Now, we're taking action."

The park board did not vote on the cameras, opting first to install yard signs in the park and look into the cost of hiring a security firm to patrol Bartelme. If the signs or security are successful, the cameras won't be needed, board members said.

"I don't know if from a park, neighborhood standpoint we would want to be the ones who discreetly did that," board member Andrea Siskovic said of potentially installing cameras.

Hiring security would show that the board is taking the "important issue" seriously, Chacon said.

"I don't know what it would cost, but [it would be] low-level security, nothing crazy," he said.

The temporary yard signs would be installed at a low level, so park users could see them when they walk their dogs. The board now will work with a graphic designer, and the signs could be installed within the month, Chacon said.

The park board plans to remove the temporary signs about two or three weeks after they are installed, giving park users enough time to get the message.

Chicago Park District signs posted on light poles reading "dogs allowed in dog area only," already line the park.

Ticketing 'last resort'

 Dog park
Dog park
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

Scott Maesel, president of the park's advisory council, previously said that asking police to ticket is a last resort. Over the years, the park council has requested more signs, added a designated dog-friendly board member and tried to inform dog owners of the rules through word of mouth, but problems persist.

Chacon said he believes ticketing will force bad dog owners to take the rules seriously.

"Once some people are fined, it won't just be some open-ended threat," he said.

Under city ordinance, owners who fail to clean up their pet's poop face a $50 to $500 ticket for each offense, unless the dog owner is legally blind.

Pet owners also are required to restrain their dogs with a leash when the dog is off the owner's property. Owners who defy the city rule are subject to a $300 fine. But if the violation results in the serious injury or death of another person, the owner could face fines up to $10,000 and up to six months in jail.

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