According to a WBEZ analysis of thousands of towing records and invoices, the city regularly pulls residents into a nexus of ticket-related debt and car seizures that is stunning in its scope.
In 2017 alone, Chicago booted more than 67,000 vehicles for unpaid tickets. In about a third of those cases, the driver couldn’t afford to remove the boot, and the vehicle was later towed to a city impound lot.
Of those 20,000 impounded cars, more than 8,000 ended up like Botello’s: They were sold off, with the owners receiving none of the sale proceeds. Instead, the city and its towing contractor pocketed millions of dollars, while residents were left with ticket debt.
All told, there have been nearly 50,000 of these sales since 2011.