It’s a problem that’s gotten out of control, nearly one in ten California drivers claim to be disabled and have placards, which let them park free all day at meters and on streets reserved for residents only.
But NBCLA found, many of these people are able-bodied drivers, illegally taking away parking from the rest of us. Because of our report, the Department of Motor Vehicles is going after them in a huge way.
DMV officers conducted a sting operation in Downtown LA, looking for drivers who are illegally using disabled placards. We watched as they confronted one man who parked his car using his wife’s placard, so he didn’t have to plug the meter near his clothing store.
When asked, “You didn’t know it was illegal to use your wife’s placard?”
“No, I didn’t know,” he replied.
This DMV crackdown, is in response to NBCLA’s undercover investigation, where we found 80 percent of the cars in a large section of Downtown LA were displaying disabled
Placards, that often belong to other people.
“We will actively investigate, and conduct enforcement operations,” says DMV chief Vito Scattaglia.
NBCLA also found placard abusers hogging most of the parking in other areas, like Beverly Hills, and Westwood.
We watched as one woman parked her Jaguar, day after day, on a Westwood side street, even in spots reserved for residents only. She displays a placard, which allows her to Park there all day, while she works at a nearby travel Agency.
Our investigation found she’s using a placard, issued to a 75 year old man.
She admitted she knew that what she was doing was illegal.
NBCLA also talked to LADOT traffic cops. We asked one cop, “Do you think all these people with handicapped placards are disabled?”
“Oh, no,” he replied.
He says they’re told to write parking tickets, and leave the placard cheaters alone.
NBCLA also spoke with Jimmy Price, head of LA’s parking enforcement. We asked him, “There is something you could do about this?”
“Absolutely,” Price replied.
State law allows city traffic officers to cite placard abusers and to do sting operations, just like the DMV does.
NBCLA asked Price when the last time the city did a sting on placard abuse on city streets.
He couldn’t recall but said, “We have limited resources, and yes our primary responsibility is issuing parking citations.”
So with no help from the city, the DMV is cracking down on the problem in areas we exposed.
On three recent mornings, agents spread out across a section of downtown. When they spotted drivers using placards, they questioned them.
During this one downtown sting, the DMV confiscated dozens of placards, towed cars of placard abusers and wrote 46 criminal citations for placard misuse, a record for a DMV ting of this kind.
If found guilty, these people face a maximum penalty of $3500 dollars and six months in jail.
“What we’ve found here in the last couple of days has just been unbelievable in terms of the violations,” Scattaglia tells NBCLA.
Because of the sting, there appear to be a lot more places to park in this part of downtown. Store owners tell us the word is spreading, that if you use someone else’s placard you could get busted by the DMV.
The city of LA could be doing a lot to stop placard abuse. Cities like San Francisco have teams that look for placard cheats. Last year, San Francisco confiscated 2000 placards that were being misused. The city of LA seized just 33 placards.
If you want to report a motorist who is illegally misusing a placard, you can notify the DMV by filling out this form: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/forms/inv/inv172a.pdf
Do you have a story for us to investigate? Email us at: Joel.Grover@nbcuni.com