Northampton Police cracking down on handicap placard fraud - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Northampton Police cracking down on handicap placard fraud

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)

Drivers parking illegally in handicapped spaces has been an ongoing issue in many cities and towns.
Northampton has been targeting repeat offenders for years, but with harsher penalties now in play, police hope this problem can finally be resolved.

It was a typical Monday in downtown Northampton.  Cars passing by left and right, pedestrians walking through busy intersections, and police ticketing parked cars.

Some with expired meters.  Others, though, are parked in handicap spots when they shouldn't be.

"It's something that is an ongoing problem and that we're looking into on a daily basis," said Northampton Police Capt. John Cartledge.

Cartledge told Western Mass News that too many drivers are taking advantage of placards, the blue cards seen hanging on driver's mirrors or on license plates, allowing them to park in designated handicap spots.

The city just took part in Mass. RMV's placard abuse prevention week in hopes of cutting down on the numerous offenders.

"It could be expired, it could be covered up," Cartledge explained.

Last year, Northampton officers issued nearly 250 tickets for placard violations.

Of those, about 75 percent were for permits with a blocked expiration date or not visible at all.  The other 25 percent were expired, altered, used on the wrong car, or the driver didn't qualify for one.

Also, of the 250 tickets, this did not even include those who just chose to park anyway.

The problem varies across the city - anywhere from large shopping plazas to downtown streets.

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed into law harsher penalties for handicap parking fraud.

It's going to cost you $50 if the pass is not visible.  It's now a $150 fine just for parking in a handicap spot without a pass.

However, those who steal, alter, misuse, or make their own placard will be fined $500 for the first offense and another $1,000 every additional offense.  Your license will be suspended and you could even go to jail.

Police just want to get the message out.

"Even just speaking to someone about it, and giving them the knowledge they need to not be improperly using it," Cartledge added.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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