10/27/2011 11:52 am ET Updated Dec 27, 2011

Shoveling Sidewalks Could Be Enforced With E-Ticketing This Winter

Negligent shovelers will earn more than ice sheets and dirty looks from passersby if one Chicago alderman gets his way.

During a demonstration of mobile electronic ticketing technology Wednesday, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) proposed that the system be used to photograph snow-covered sidewalks and issue tickets to the responsible property owners, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Property owners are required by law to keep their sidewalks shoveled, and an ordinance permits tickets ranging from $50 to $100 to be issued for noncompliance, but Fox Chicago reports that enforcement is rare.

Tunney told the Sun-Times he doesn't want the policy to be adversarial, and property owners should first receive one or two warnings before being ticketed.

"We're trying to walk down the street, and everybody seems to be doing a good job except one or two property owners," Tunney told the Sun-Times. "A ticket here or there [and], all the sudden, the snow will be removed on a timely basis."

New technology can streamline the process and make ticketing a more viable option. Chicago's 50 ward superintendents previously needed to photograph and write tickets for violations by hand, mailing both documents to the Law Department where they would try to determine the property owner, the Sun-Times reports. Now, all 50 superintendents have Blackberries, allowing them to send electronic files directly to the Law Department, who can quickly identify the responsible party and pass the ticket on to the Department of Administrative Hearings.

This heightened enforcement would be added to a list of proposed 'crackdowns' on policies including dog licensing, preferred disability parking and driving speed at a time when the city's budget is facing a shortfall.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) told the Sun-Times she thinks ticketing efforts should be focused on businesses rather than residents.

"I don't think we need to be patrolling citizens who do not shovel their sidewalks. Some of them may not be able to," she said.