Police scour Loop for parking abuse

December 15, 2011 (CHICAGO)

In one hour Thursday morning, authorities wrote at least three tickets to downtown Chicago drivers abusing the program.

Illinois Secretary of State's Office is joining forces with Chicago police to send a message that fraudulent use will not be tolerated.

"Our mission is to make sure we get after those individuals who take advantage of a program that's been set aside for those who are truly disabled," White said.

White has directed his police unit to work with Chicago police as they tighten their grip on offenders.

Uniformed and plain clothes officers were looking for offenders in five areas of the Loop Thursday. Officers say, in general, they mostly see people using a family member's placard.

State and city officials say the abuse is a big problem downtown because people with placards do not have to pay to park in metered spaces.

The first part of the crackdown started on Black Friday at Chicago-area malls. Since then, the Secretary of State's office says it has written 137 tickets at a minimum of $500 each.

"I had the excuse where a gentleman was sitting in the driver's seat, nobody else in the car. It's his wife's placard, and he tells me his knees are bothering him today," said Glenn Florkow, Secretary of State police.

Meanwhile, Chicago's city council just passed an ordinance Wednesday that sharpens the penalties on top of state fines already in place. Effective January 29, violators using placards to park in free or convenient spaces could have their cars impounded and be required to pay up to $4,000 in fines and fees.

Fines for fake, stolen or altered placards will range from $500 to $1,000.

"What we want to do is try to create more tools in our tool box to address this issue and impose more financial disincentives to those who may be fraudulently using disabled placards," said Karen Tamley of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities Reality.

As a disabled resident and liaison to the Secretary of State, Bill Bogden says it should all should help stop the abuse he sees all too often.

"I use the program every single day, and you see people hopping out of vehicles and running into the story -- beat me to a parking spot, only to hop out and run into a store," said Bogden.

Lending a placard to someone else will also become illegal at the end of January. Expect to pay a $200 fine for that.

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