This past February, NBCLA exposed one major parking trick: able-bodied motorists are illegally using other people's disabled placards to hog parking meters.
A placard allows you to park free at a meter all day. We found that in parts of downtown LA, for example, about 80 percent of the meters were being monopolized by people using disabled placards.
Many of them were business owners who wanted to park free all day in front of their stores. After our February investigation, the CaliforniaDMV did a sting operation in the area, issuing 41 criminal citations for placard misuse.
Now, four months later, we've returned to the area, and we've uncovered some new tricks people are using to get free meter parking.
We found numerous food vendors parking their carts all day long, at two-hour meters. Many of them appear to have tickets on their windshields, as if they've been cited for violating the two-hour parking limit.
But NBCLA inspected these tickets closer and found many of them are just empty ticket envelopes, or tickets that were issued days or weeks earlier.
Sources tell NBCLA that vendors often put these bogus tickets on their vehicles to make it look like they've already been cited, so traffic officers won't ticket them.
We found something else: city workers reserving parking meters for food vendors.
Day after day, we saw Department of Water and Power employees using cones to block off parking meters in front of their power station on Santee Street in LA's Fashion District. Then we see a hot dog vendor pull in, watch the workers move the cones, and the vendor parks there all day in front of the station.
One worker admitted to NBCLA he has been reserving spots for vendors for years.
A DWP spokesman tells NBCLA it's wrong of the employees to reserve parking for vendors, but that they were doing it out of kindness.
The most common form of parking cheating we found is still fraudulent use of disabled placards, and it's not just in downtown.
More than half the cars we surveyed in Beverly Hills have disabled placards. Our investigation found many of these drivers are using placards that aren't theirs.
So one recent morning, DMV agents moved in on Beverly Hills. In just a few hours, the DMV issued 13 criminal citations to Porsches, BMWs and other Beverly Hills cars.
The DMV also decided to pay a return visit to downtown, where we exposed rampant placard fraud last February. They found that the fraud is still occurring. In one morning, they issued 16 citations to downtown drivers caught using other people's placards.
One business owner who was cited admitted to NBCLA that he bought his placard on the streets for $80.
Across the LA area, parking meter prices are going up, and parking spaces are becoming more scarce. So authorities expect the problem of placard abuse isn't going to get better any time soon.
But the DMV promises to keep doing its sting operations and keep catching placard cheaters.
Read the previous report: "No Place to Park"
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