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Police Hit Loop Targeting Disabled Placard Scofflaws

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Parking Crackdown

Police on Tuesday cracked down on drivers who misused disability placard downtown. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 01/31/12 11:49 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police officers fanned out in the Loop Tuesday morning, targeting people misusing disabled parking placards.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, they found ten violators, and wrote $4,000 in tickets.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

A new city ordinance drastically increased the fines for misusing disabled parking placards. The fines now start at $500, and three-time offenders are fined $1,000 and lose their licenses.

But as CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the biggest change that went into effect this week is that cars with stolen or fake placards can be towed and impounded.

But misuse a placard, and you could be making life extremely difficult for someone.

Joseph Russo serves as deputy commissioner of compliance for the Mayor’s office of People with Disabilities, and he goes to City Hall in his wheelchair every day.

It’s important that Russo parks close, because it’s not easy to get around.

“Those parking spaces – they’re not a convenience. They’re an absolute necessity,” Russo said.

But Russo says too often he sees people who are clearly not disabled use a placard to park for free in metered spots or take up handicapped spots.

“It’s too easy,” Russo said. “I what happens is people are doing anything from making (the placards) themselves, to steal them, to alter ones they’ve already had they no longer need.”

On Sunday, the stakes just got steeper in the battle against misuse of disabled placards. Tow truck drivers are working with Chicago Police and the Mayor’s Office to impound cars whose owners are using fake placards.

Police are also issuing tickets.

Police Traffic Enforcement Division Lt. David Blanco said the problem is “pretty serious right now.”

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White strongly supports the new city ordinance.

“I believe it’s a violation of all laws of human decency for you to be able-bodied, but yet, you want to take advantage of a program that has been set aside for those who are truly disabled,” he said.

White warned that the penalties could end up including license revocation and jail time.

“So do the right thing and give those spaces up to people who deserve them and that need them; park legally, and you won’t have to worry about seeing us,” Lt. Blanco said.

Police plan to conduct sting operations from here on out. They were downtown this morning between 6 and 8 a.m. Tuesday.

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