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Dibs getting 311 calls all over the city. Is “Dibs” Legal?

The arrival of Chicago’s first major snowstorm of the winter means the return of one of the city’s longest-running debates: To dibs or not to dibs.

It’s a question that confronts Chicagoans with every big snow. After braving the elements and shoveling your car out of several inches of snow, do you leave something — a chair, an old appliance, a garbage can, actual trash or, for the truly creatives any of an array of other objects — to claim your parking spot?

Chicagoans seem divided on this winter tradition that some think was first popularized after the Big Snow of 1967. That split can be seen in neighborhood-level data, which shows that hundreds complain to the city about dibs objects in some communities, but no one does in others.

Dibs is a tradition that even some Chicago mayors have strongly encouraged over the decades.

As far as the city’s concerned, there is no debate. One of the city’s oldest laws — section 10-28-070 of the Chicago municipal code — prohibits the practice.

And the city encourages people to remove any dibs objects they’ve set out in their efforts to stake their claim to the parking spaces they’ve shoveled clear. The city also advises people to call 311 to report chairs or other objects put out for dibs.

Every winter, thousands of such calls come in to 311 — altogether more than 12,000 since January 2019, the earliest that such records are available.

Recent Chicago winters have been relatively mild, with snowfall below average the past couple of years. As a result, 311 calls to remove dibs objects were down a bit last winter compared to the previous two winters.

From December 2022 through March 2023, there were 724 dibs removal calls, compared with 6,030 from December 2021 through March 2022 and 4,587 from December 2020 through March 2021.

In 2021, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 26, a whopping 37.7 inches of snow fell in Chicago — nearly twice what the city got during the entire winter o 2022-2023. There were more than 4,000 calls to remove dibs objects during that stretch.

In 2022, from Jan. 23 to Feb. 17, nearly 19 inches of snow were recorded in Chicago, and there were nearly 4,800 calls to remove dibs objects in that stretch.

The calls have come in from almost every community area. But there are a couple from which there haven’t been any calls. In other communities, there have been hundreds of requests to remove dibs objects.

Oh, and a word of caution for anyone new to the city who’s thinking: I dug out the space, I’m going to put out a chair to claim dibs. Not only is it a Chicago tradition to claim shoveled-out parking spaces, it’s also a tradition for some people to exact revenge upon those who violate dibs, with slashed tires and even threats and physical confrontations.