Sting operation reveals illegal use of handicap placards

Some students at Santa Monica College allegedly violated parking laws after the Santa Monica Police Department conducted a sting operation of the illegal use of disabled placards.

A total of 21 disabled placards and eight preferential parking permits were confiscated by the SMPD on March 27, according to Sgt. Raymond L. Bottenfield of the Santa Monica College Police Department.

The SMCPD also began a placard investigation starting Jan. 1, which resulted in 16 students being cited for the misuse of disabled placards. The investigation of the placards ended on April 1.

During the investigation, the suspected placards were held as evidence with the SMCPD for a total of seven days. Within those seven days, the owner had to claim the placard before it was sent to the DMV. If the placard did not match all of the required legal obligations, the person who was misusing it was not allowed to retrieve it, and it was sent to the DMV to be destroyed.

Bottenfield said that after speaking to different representatives of other agencies, he found that the misuse of placards was an issue in the Los Angeles County.

"While the majority of violators are misusing a family member’s placard, we have also found placards that were stolen, altered, or with the owner deceased," said Bottenfield.

To determine if someone is correctly using a disabled placard, Bottenfield said, police should check for regulations, including that the person who was issued the placard must be in the vehicle displaying it, the placard cannot be expired, and the placard must be displayed properly.

At any given time, the police have the right to speak with any person displaying a handicapped placard to determine if it is being rightfully used.

"Misuse of disabled placards occurs on a regular basis on and off the campus." Bottenfield said. "Depending on the location of the violation, it may be treated as a misdemeanor crime with a fine of up to $4,200 and a court appearance required, or it may be cited as a parking violation with a fine of $508. All violators are subject to either set of penalties."

The SMC Disabled Student Programs and Services pamphlet lists regulations for using disabled parking placards on campus.

"Students with DMV-issued disabled parking placards must also purchase an SMC parking permit," according to the DSPS pamphlet. "Automobiles displaying both the placard and SMC permit may then park in any legal parking space on campus."

Diana Ratay, a resident of the South Bay, expressed her concerns about people misusing disabled placards.

"It’s especially frustrating because my 80-year-old mother is handicapped," she said.

Ratay said she takes her mom grocery shopping weekly and helps her run every day errands.

"When all the handicapped spots are taken, the simplest tasks become a long, arduous process for both my mom and I," she said. "There are already so few spaces for people who are disabled, so to think about people misusing these spaces is really upsetting."

NewsEva UnderwoodComment