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Public urination tickets fall sharply during pandemic

Despite the citywide decrease, some parts of the South and West sides are still bearing the brunt of citations being handed out.

A bakery and coffee shop in Humoldt Park notifies customers they don’t have a public bathroom.
Public urination tickets are down this year even though public restrooms are harder to find because of the pandemic.
Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Hold it.

Public urination tickets fell 66% during the coronavirus pandemic, city data shows.

Through mid-August of this year, 973 public urination tickets had been doled out by Chicago police, a significant decrease compared to the 2,899 handed out in the same period of time last year.

The neighborhood that saw the greatest drop was Wrigleyville, where tickets fell from 105 to nine in the 60613 ZIP code — a 91% drop that’s no doubt associated with a massive reduction of beer-swilling revelers as Wrigley Field remains off limits to fans and neighboring bars, which were closed for a time, now have scaled back capacity.

“In general, you don’t see this level of drunkenness or revelry around the ballpark, and all its negative consequences,” said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley Field.

“It’s very peaceful and quiet. It’s almost a quiet that makes me nervous,” he said, noting silence equates to lost revenue in an otherwise boisterous entertainment district.

Many people are staying home. Others who are venturing out are presumably using nature’s restroom more frequently due to a scarcity of public bathrooms.

Could police officers, who may be uniquely sensitive to the issue, be looking the other way and handing out fewer tickets?

“The Chicago Police Department has been and continues to enforce the law during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the enforcement of City of Chicago municipal code 8-4-081,” police spokeswoman Sally Bown said in an email, referencing the public urination portion of the city’s rulebook.

Most of the highest cited communities are in areas of the city’s South and West sides.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said he believes the citations are warranted in his ward.

“It’s not surprising to hear this, because I can tell you that I get calls to my office from residents complaining about this issue, and if they’re calling me, I’m sure they’re calling the police, too,” said Ervin.

His ward includes Garfield Park, which takes of a large swath of the 60624 ZIP code, where 168 citations were handed out last year through mid-August and 47 were issued this year during that window — a drop of 72%.

Here are the numbers from the city’s eight other most-cited areas:

  • West Englewood (60636) fell from 203 to 78 citations, a 62% drop.
  • Roseland/Pullman (60628) fell from 164 to 33 citations, an 80% drop.
  • Little Village/North Lawndale (60623) fell from 144 to 52 citations, a 64% drop.
  • Marquette Park/Chicago Lawn/West Lawn (60629) fell from 135 to 56 citations, a 59% drop.
  • South Austin (60644) fell from 125 to 31 citations, a 75% drop.
  • Lake View/Boystown (60657) fell from 119 to 37 citations, a 69% drop.
  • Austin/Humboldt Park (60651) fell from 104 to 30 citations, a 71% drop.
  • Englewood (60621) fell from 97 to 38 citations, a 61% drop.