Police to crack down on disability parking violators

November 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Police will patrol the parking lots of shopping malls such as Woodfield in suburban Schaumburg.

Last year over Thanksgiving weekend, a similar crackdown resulted in 43 people being ticketed and 14 having their disability placards confiscated.

Offenders face fines and even a temporary suspension of their licenses but violations continue.

"They don't have the sign, they just pull in and take the spot," said Eileen Orrico, handicapped parker.

People parking illegally in handicapped spots or using placards that are not theirs is a common problem, one that officials say seems to get worse around the holidays.

"My message today is simple. If you don't belong there, don't park there," said Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. "Our mission is not to give tickets, but to ensure that parking spaces are available to those who need them."

"It's frustrating because I can only walk so far and then when I get in there and get the packages, and I have to go all the way down, that's it," said Orrico.

White says beginning in January a top-to-bottom review of the state's parking program for people with disabilities will take place, with an eye toward cracking down on people who illegally use disabled-parking placards to park for free in metered spots around Chicago.

"They don't look like there is anything wrong with them. That's an old story that goes on and on," said Emma Rainey.

Statewide, more than 577,000 permanent disability placards are in circulation, plus tens of thousands temporary ones. White's proposal would, among other things, impose a $2,500 fine for those using a dead person's placard.

"It is a violation of all laws of human decency for you to be able-bodied and yet take advantage of a program that's set aside for those in need," said White.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already proposed higher fines for those who illegally use disability placards to park in metered spots. There are some who would go further. They think the legislature should end free parking in metered spots statewide for all but a few disabled people.

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