Julie Overman can pretty much park anywhere for free. She has a disability placard that she obtained with a doctor's note. She says she underwent two hip surgeries after a bad car accident five years ago.
When asked if it is hard for her to walk, Overman replied, "Yes, especially after I drive. You know, I just get stiff you know?"
However, Berkeley police suspect there are plenty of people with disability placards that don't have a legitimate medical or physical condition. In many cases, they say people are borrowing someone else's placard or using a fake one. Berkeley resident Austin Sharp says it's frustrating to see people abusing the system.
"I parked at the supermarket today next to someone who did have one and they jumped out of their car, ran into the supermarket, bought a bunch of stuff, ran back like sprinting. There's no way they should have had a disability placard in my mind," said Austin Sharp.
On Tuesday, Berkeley police will launch a new effort to crack down on placard abuse. The department's parking enforcement officers now have the authority to ask people who have one for identification and evidence that the placard they're using is issued to them. In the past, only law enforcement officers had that authority.
"I've definitely known some people who have had placards and have taken advantage of it or have been in attendance with someone who is handicapped and then used the placards themselves and abused it, so I think it's terrific they're cracking down. It's excellent," said Berkeley resident Mark Lopez-Cepero.
"Well, I think there are not enough parking spots to go around, so I think it's a good idea for them to enforce it," said Berkeley resident Zac Morrison.
Anyone caught illegally using a disability placard faces a hefty fine. A recent change in state law bumped up the amount from $200 to $250, to up to $1,000.
"I think people should be honest about things like that because there are a lot of people that need these spaces," said Julie Overman.
In addition to a fine, violators risk having the placard confiscated.