Oakland PD gets tough on parking cheaters

September 30, 2009 7:25:53 PM PDT
Disabled parking placard cheaters be warned -- Oakland police are cracking down. City officials hope that will help solve Oakland's budget woes, but the crackdown isn't all that easy.

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Parking for free with a disabled placard is costing Oakland more $1 million a year.

"I'm going take this as evidence, ok. You're going to get a ticket," said an Oakland police officer.

But as traffic officers on an early morning sting found, even downtown, where in some blocks cars displaying placards take up every space, catching the culprits isn't easy.

Of the 32 stops, eight able-bodied people received citations; tickets for using a disabled placard that belongs to someone else.

"With the odds you figure we're getting about a quarter or half of what we're actually contacting. It's a lot of abuse," said Oakland officer Angela Coaston.

The difficulty for police is catching people as they leave their cars and proving they're disabled.

"If a person definitely looks like they're not disabled, they jump out of a car and they're running around, that's even more of a reason to inquire," said Oakland officer John Low.

These days, the disabled placards aren't so hard to come by. The DMV will issue them to anyone with a note that can come from a doctor, a midwife, even a chiropractor.

Statistics from the DMV prove just how popular the placards are. The number of disabled parking permits in Alameda County has skyrocketed -- more than 100,000 drivers now have one. That's up 122 percent since 1996.

Across the state, more than 2.5 million drivers have them and that's a 144 percent increase since 1996.

"It's just unfair that someone can park here or park in a handicap space when they don't really need it," said Mike Birdsall from handicapfraud.org.

Most caught didn't want their faces shown ? but a man said he had no idea he broke the law.

"This is my wife's. I'm disabled also, but we just got one placard. I just don't have my own from DMV, so I guess this means a violation for you? I hope not," he said.

In Oakland, it's a violation that comes with a $1,400 dollar fine.

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