Portland parking abusers targeted
In his 24 years working as parking enforcement officer in Portland, Andy Martin has seen and heard just about everything. But there is one thing that the relatively good-humored Martin, the city’s senior parking control officer, can’t laugh off: the abuse of handicapped parking placards.
“There are some savvy people out there who know the game,” Martin said last week while making the rounds through the Old Port. “It’s the people who really need that parking I feel bad for.”
The abuse of handicapped parking placards comes in many different forms. Some people rub off and change the expiration date, which is handwritten using a magic marker on temporary handicapped parking placards issued by the state.
Others will use placards of deceased relatives who had a permanent disability. While those expiration dates are punched into the plastic placard that dangles from a vehicle’s rear-view mirror, Martin said some people will punch out a new expiration date and use the plastic to plug in the old expiration date.
“It makes my stomach turn just thinking about,” Martin said.
As it stands now, parking officers have no authority to issue tickets for these offenses.
That could change Monday, when the City Council takes up a new ordinance that would allow parking officers to issue tickets carrying $200 fines.
Handicapped parking placards are currently regulated by state law, Neighborhood Prosecutor Trish McAllister said in a Sept. 23 memo to the council’s Public Safety Health and Human Safety Committee.
McAllister said a police officer could issue a summons to people who abuse handicapped parking placards, but officers would have to wait for the offender to return to the vehicle to issue the summons in person.
The proposed ordinance would give parking officers the authority to leave a ticket on the windshield, she said.
Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said enforcing handicapped parking laws is important to ensure Portland’s most vulnerable citizens are protected, but officers are typically busy handling more serious crimes.
“Unfortunately, our officers are forced to use their discretion when determining whether or not they can take the extra time to wait for a driver to return to their vehicle or respond to the additional 85,000 calls for service that they are responsible for every year,” Sauschuck said.
Handicapped parking placards are issued at the state level by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Permanently disabled people receive blue placards, while the temporarily disabled receive red placards. Both require a doctor’s recommendation.
Green placards are for drivers who transport disabled people. These are abused, too, Martin said, because they are occasionally used for personal purposes.
Parking Manager John Peverada said the city does not track the number of altered parking placards parking officers see. However, he estimates the city has seen as many as 50 altered permits in recent years.
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