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Friday, June 1, 2012

From the Detective

Cook County property tax bills to come out on time

Owners of homes and businesses in Cook County can expect a mid-summer surprise: the second installment of property tax bills are expected to hit mail boxes in early July for the first time in decades.

If the bills get to the post office by July 1, it would be the first time since 1978 — when former President Jimmy Carter occupied the White House — that the bills were mailed on time, said County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

That’s a good-news, bad-news proposition.

Bad news first: payment will be due Aug. 1, compared to Nov. 1 last year. Good news: school districts and local government won’t have to take out short-term loans to make ends meet, saving an estimated $20 million across the county.

After 1978, the bills started going out in August. By the late 1990s, they were mailed in the fall — a point at which schools were well into the academic year.

“None of those taxing bodies are going to have to go out and get tax anticipation notes,” Assessor Joe Berrios said. “They’ll all have their money. The taxpayers are going to save a lot of money.”

Credit for the achievement extends across many offices, starting with Berrios, who finished his initial work 120 days earlier than usual. The three-member Board of Review, which considered more than 341,000 appeals of those determinations, also worked faster.

County Clerk David Orr’s office is now calculating property tax rates and amounts due, which it could hand off as early as next week to Treasurer Maria Pappas, who is responsible for printing and mailing the bills.

The tardiness became a political football in 2010, as charges flew that key Democratic leaders deliberately slowed down the process to avoid sending out big tax bills before Election Day. Democrats won’t have that luxury this fall.

Also playing a key role was Preckwinkle, who like Berrios pledged during the 2010 campaign to get the bills out earlier. She got the offices to work together.

“Last year, we got the bills out six weeks earlier than before, but still not quite on time,” said Preckwinkle, who like Berrios took office in late 2010. “This year we are going to get the bills out on time, and it’s because everybody worked together and collaborated.”

iPhone hid in chip bags App still got thugs arrested what idiots

Terrance Conway, left, Tiquell Harris

West Side police used an iPhone app to track down two men who robbed five people of their cell phones and cash early Thursday, then found the iPhones in bags of potato chips at the gas station where the men were arrested.

Terrance Conway, 25, and Tiquell Harris, 22, face armed robbery charges in the attacks, one at 1 a.m. Thursday in the 2300 block of West Iowa Street, the other 15 minutes later in the 2100 block of West Iowa, police said in a news release. In a bond hearing today, Cook County Criminal Court Judge James Brown set bail for Conway at $150,000 and bail for Harris at $125,000.

A man, 34, and a woman, 22, were walking home in the 2300 block of West Iowa about 1 a.m. Thursday when two men came up to them and announced a robbery, according to police. The robbers made off with the woman's iPhone and a purse containing cash and makeup, as well as the man’s cell phone, cash and credit cards, according to police reports.

Just 15 minutes later, two men went up to three men, ages 30, 33, and 38, as they tried to get into a car. The robbers stole more than $120 from the men, as well as cell phones—including one man’s iPhone--wallets and credit cards from the three men and fled, according to police reports.

Using the Find My iPhone GPS tracking app, Wood District officers figured out the location of iPhones stolen in the robberies and went to a gas station in the 4200 block of West Chicago Avenue, police said. The officers saw a black 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix parked with no one in it, near the gas pumps.

When the officers went into the gas station, they saw two men try to hide by ducking down between the aisles of merchandise. The two men matched the description of the robbers, and the officers arrested them, police said.

After the arrests, the officers searched the aisle and found the stolen iPhones in bags of potato chips.

Victims later identified Conway, of the 3000 block of West Walnut Street, and Harris, of the 100 block of East Lake Street, Elmhurst, as the robbers, and they were charged with armed robbery, police said.

Conway and Harris were scheduled to appear in Criminal Court Branch 44 on June 7.