SACRAMENTO, CA - Have you ever driven down the street and had a tough time finding a parking spot? A group of drivers has found a way to cheat the system, but the City of Sacramento is stepping in.
At least a dozen drivers are caught every month in Sacramento using someone else's disabled placard to park for free; the city has termed it "Disabled Parking Placard Abuse."
State Parking Services Manager Howard Chan said the California is one of five states with full exemptions for disabled drivers. Disabled placard users are allowed to park in metered spaces for free and they don't have to follow the time limits, which has led to people taking advantage of the system.
"It's just a huge problem, it keeps getting bigger every year," Chan explains.
The problem is so big that the city has hired a team of undercover officers who roam the streets looking for offenders. Drivers who get caught could face jail time of six months, but more likely they would to pay the steep fine of up to $3,500 and the placard would be confiscated.
"I think when they sign the ticket, that's when they realize what a big deal it is," explained an undercover agent.
Downtown Sacramento business owners said placard users take up critical spaces in front of their shops, making it harder for you to find an open place to park.
"Almost on a daily basis, there are a number of people that either call me or stop by for good and say, 'we love your place, I could come here every day, but parking doesn't do it for me,'" explained an business owner who wants to remain anonymous because she didn't want offend anyone who properly uses their placard.
"We are left with less than half of the already limited amount of parking for people to either unload or just pay a quarter to park for five-ten minutes," the business owner said.
To date, more than 120,000 handicap placards have been issued in Sacramento County alone. To put that into perspective, in central Sacramento, there are about 23,000 on-street parking spaces.
"So if everyone decided to show up, it could virtually put us out of business in terms of creating that turnover that supports businesses and residents alike," Chan said.