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The Controversial Tradition Of Chicago 'Dibs'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Deep dish or tavern style, Cubs or Sox, Portillo's or Al's Beef.

There are few things that can spark as fierce an argument in this city as those topics, but the age-old practice of dibs may be one of them.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas learned that just in the past week, the city has fielded hundreds of complaints about dibs, thousands so far this year, and winter is still far from over.

To dibs or not to dibs...

"It took me about half an hour to dig out the spot," said Chicago resident Angela Espeland. "This is a garbage can. That's a laundry basket."

"For years I've been against dibs very vocally," she added.

"You feel very protective about your spot, you know?" added Shannon Barnes

To fully understand the debate, you must first know the frustration of the Chicago street parker.

"Every other spot on this block has dibs on it," lamented Espeland, who admitted she loathed the practice, considered it entitled for years, but then came last week's massive snowfall.

"I'm not proud of it. I'm actually kind of ashamed of it, but after spending half an hour shoveling, and hurting my back, and seeing no other spots available I just felt like there was no other option." Espeland said.

Ironing boards, chairs, even a pair of pants. Some of the city's side streets are starting to look like a frozen thrift store. City records show the city's 311  system has fielded 2,638 complaints so far this year about dibs, more than the last two years combined (355 in 2020 and 1,127 in 2019).

A CBS 2 interactive map showed the neighborhoods with the most complaints are Belmont Cragin, South Lawndale, and Avondale.  Over the years, dibs have even led to confrontations and reports of car vandalism.

CBS 2 asked CPD if dibs are dubious.  A spokesperson said they understand the challenges, but "Chicago streets are for everyone to use and park on, regardless of who shoveled the space."

Something Logan Square resident Shannon Barnes agrees with. Usually.

"I'd say like 75% of the spots that were open had some random object," Barnes said. "So I feel like I was kind of forced to claim my spot."

There is a city ordinance that says you can't store your personal belongings in the public way.  But if you're hoping to get your neighbor's lawn chair removed, you'll have to wait for Mother Nature to run its course.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation said it won't remove dibs markers in the public way until the end of winter, starting with the ones people have complained to 311 about.

For reference, last year the city ended its dibs grace period in mid-March.

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