In the annals of Peoria crime, Doug Haley probably won't become infamous as The Mad Shoveler.
But he does stand accused of an unusual charge: essentially, reckless snow-shoveling. Sunday, a police officer wrote him a citation for violating a city ordinance by throwing snow into the street in front of his house. The pending fine: $100.
"I was pretty upset," Haley says.
The scene of the crime is Far North Peoria. For almost a decade, Haley has lived in the 7300 block of Manning Drive with his wife and four kids.
About nine years ago, he got into a small spat with a neighbor regarding a construction permit. It wasn't a major dust-up, but the two have remained cool to each other ever since.
Saturday, after snow fell, his wife and kids went outside, "shoveling and playing," Haley says. His adversarial neighbor became miffed when one of Haley's boys apparently flung snow far off the Haley property.
"Hey, keep your snow on your side of the street," the neighbor yipped.
The next morning, as the powder piled up, Haley shoveled his driveway. He hurled most of the snow onto either side of the driveway. But, as he cleared the base of the driveway, he "scattered" a little snow into the street, he says.
He didn't think it was a big deal — or illegal — because the city had yet to plow the street, covered with maybe 6 inches of snowfall. Plus, he says, it's not as if he heaped snow into a roadway mountain.
"There was never an obstruction," he says. "It wasn't as if the neighbors couldn't get out of their driveway."
But one of those neighbors — Haley isn't sure who, but he's got a good guess — called police to officially complain about Haley's scofflaw shoveling strategy. The next day, an officer rolled up and knocked on the door to ask Haley is he'd done any illicit shoveling lately.
Perhaps Haley should've clammed up and called an attorney specializing in snow-removal law. Instead, Haley asked a very good question: how could police prove which snow came from his driveway?
The officer replied something vague — like, the Haley driveway obviously had been cleared, and perhaps Haley had gotten a little too energetic with his snow-throwing. At that, Haley admitted that some of the snow in the street got there via his shovel. That was enough for the officer to scribble out an ordinance violation — "pushed snow onto roadway" — and hand it to Haley.
Days later, Haley still can't believe the fine he faces. "One hundred dollars!" he yelps.
The violation pertains to Peoria Municipal Code Sec. 26-25: "No person shall sweep, shovel or pile, or cause to be swept, shoveled or piled, any snow, ice or other waste upon any of the streets, avenues, alleys, sidewalks or other public ways of the city."
Page 2 of 2 - How many such tickets do cops write? I contacted the Peoria Police Department and got a response from the head of the patrol division, Capt. Lisa Snow. Yes, seriously.
Anyway, Capt. Snow wasn't immediately sure of the typical annual number of snow-shoveling citations. She says the department gets occasional such calls
" If there were critical calls holding or urgent matters that needed attending to, this call would have been held until the crisis was over," Snow says. " (But) most of the time during snowstorms, once citizens can get home and are not driving on the roadways, our call load actually drops."
Still, shoveling complaints are tricky. It's often hard to track the path of illegal snow trafficking.
"As you can imagine, it may be difficult to prove who created the (roadway) pile of snow," Snow says.
Often, police officers can do little but shrug off such a complaint. But in Haley's case, the officer had a little more to work with. Though Capt. Snow says Haley's street was "heavily covered in snow from the snowfall," she also points out that there was a "mound of snow on top" near his driveway.
Haley confessed to the mound. The officer wrote the ticket. That's a hard one to fight.
Why not just issue Haley a warning?
"The complaining party may have been just as dissatisfied with the outcome," Snow says. "These are judgement calls."
I'm not sure if there's a moral here. Maybe, "Shovel smart." And, "Smile at your neighbor, even if he drives you batty."
Or, perhaps best of all, just leave your driveway alone until the snow melts, as nature intended. That alternative is messier, but at least $100 cheaper.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com, facebook.com/philluciano, 686-3155 or (800) 225- 5757, Ext. 3155. Follow him on Twitter @LucianoPhil.