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What's bugging you? Handicap-parking fraud

ABC7 Eyewitness News: What's Bugging You?
January 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
With parking sometimes difficult in Southern California, some people try to get around the rules by parking in spots reserved for the handicapped. Here's how you can stop these parking cheats.Early one morning at a busy mall, investigators start their search, looking for people parking in handicap spots who should not be there. It's something that's bugging many viewers, who say it's not fair to those who truly need them.

"I've seen a few times. A lot of times cars use these spaces without the proper license," said mall-shopper Edgar Castillo. "It bothers me."

Eyewitness News went out with California Department of Motor Vehicles investigators who say they'll ask a few questions and then check the tags with a driver's license.

It sounds simple, but it can be a dangerous assignment. Drivers can get very upset.

"It brings out the anger in them in terms of getting caught," said DMV investigator Vito Scattaglia.

Several people were caught on this day. In one case the person hid her face from the camera.

Officials say a common tactic is for family members to borrow handicap tags.

One offender, Eddie Kazarian, said he borrowed one from his brother. He said his brother has a disability. Asked why he thought he could use it, Kazarian replied, "To be honest with you, I don't know." Asked if he was embarrassed about it, he said, "Yes, it's my fault."

Investigators say approaching someone is one thing you should not do if you see someone parking in a handicap space, and you suspect they're doing it illegally. Instead they say you should write down the license plate and placard number and report it to the DMV.

There's even a Web site, http://www.handicappedfraud.org/, where you can send a picture, post it and send the information, and they'll report it for you.

And a new law gives cities a little more bite when it comes to cracking down on illegal placards. The fine runs between $250 and $1,000.

"And community service working with the disabled, formal probation for at least a year, and then the placards are confiscated, and those that belong to family members of the violator, they have to go to the hassle of re-applying and getting another placard issued to them," said Scattaglia.

"I feel really upset because my mother is legally blind. The placard is mine," said Gail Marko, a disabled driver. "My mother has her own. My cane is in the car because we both use this to hang on to today. But I think that people should respect those of us that have disabilities and leave those spaces for us."

Just because you don't see any visible disabilities, it doesn't mean the person is breaking the law. It could be a disability like asthma, or a heart condition. So don't confront them. Leave it to the DMV, and they'll investigate.


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