UPDATED 12/15/11 11:20 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Police also waited for the owners to return to their vehicles, to make sure the placards actually belonged to them.

“We will no longer tolerate them using someone else’s disability placard, or parking where they should not be parking,” said Secretary of State Jesse White.

Undercover plainclothes officers issued at least one ticket.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

In another situation, they approached a young woman who parked at a metered spot near Lake Street and Stetson Avenue without paying. It turned out she had a legitimate placard, and she was released.

But violators face fines of up to $500, and possible suspensions. Secretary of State’s office disability liaison Bill Bogdan, who himself is in a wheelchair, said violators should face consequences.

“When people abuse the parking spaces for persons with disabilities, they’re actually taking up a spot that I need to help me move around independently and function throughout the day,” Bogdan said.

One major issue authorities have found is people using placards to park for free at metered spaces.

“So the placard was rightfully issued to a person with a disability, but it’s a friend or a family that’s using the placard without the disabled person present,” Bogdan said, “and under Illinois law, the authorized person must be present, and must enter or exit the vehicle at the time the parking privilege is being used.”

Just Wednesday, the City Council approved an ordinance to tighten penalties for drivers who are caught.

Anyone who shows a fake, stolen or altered placard will be fined $500 to $1,000, while the owner of any car in which there is an otherwise invalid placard – such as one that belongs to someone else – will be fined $200.

Both offenses can also lead to impoundment, which carries am additional penalty ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 and towing and storage costs.

“Our message is very clear – if you don’t belong there, please don’t park there,” Bogdan said.

The new city ordinance will go into effect on Jan. 29 of next year, in an effort to halt abuses that Mayor Rahm Emanuel says have “gone on far too long.”

The city says it will take the new measure seriously, especially since Morgan Stanley-controlled parking meter lessee Chicago Parking Meters LLC set the city a $13.5 million bill to cover losses from people who used either disability plates or placards to park for free in metered spots between February 2010 and 2011.

Officials cannot say how many disabled parking placards used in Chicago are fake or fraudulent. But the Mayor’s office says the city has long been losing serious money because these cheaters.

Mayor Emanuel is disputing the bill, although eventually, if the city concedes, taxpayers will have to pay for the problem.

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