Support Grows to Eliminate Most Free Disabled Parking in Chicago

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According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White are giving their support to a proposal that would eliminate free metered parking for a majority of state residents with handicap parking placards and plates. Handicap placard abuse has become increasingly problematic in the Windy City and the proposed legislation would provide metered parking at no cost only to disabled individuals who have trouble feeding meters.

Here are some facts about the events leading to this proposed change.

* The extent of disabled-parking fraud in the city was exposed by a Chicago Sun-Times investigation in November that concluded fraud has skyrocketed and from 2006 to 2010, Chicago issued an average 12 tickets per year for fraud but issued 155 for the first nine months of 2011.

* The investigation revealed that in 30 of the 82 instances witnessed, people using the placard did not match with the gender or age of the person who was registered as having the placard.

* On Jan. 29, Chicago beefed up the penalties for individuals caught abusing disabled-parking placards to gain free parking with fines now ranging from $500 to $1,000, in addition to giving Chicago police the discretion to impound cars of violators and tacking on impoundment fees of $1,500 to $3,000, noted the Chicago Tribune.

* People who legally have handicap parking plates and placards and let others use them will face a $200 fine.

* Another Chicago Tribune article noted Illinois has had similar penalties in place, specifically $500 for the first offense, with fines increasing up to $1,000 for the first offense.

* White has proposed a statewide law that would suspend a driver's license for 30 days if someone is caught using a placard illegally and hike the fine of displaying a fake placard to $2,500.

* CBS Local reported White began looking into ways on how to crack down on the illegal use of disabled parking placards and license plates statewide and appointed former Transportation Secretary Sam Skinner to lead a subcommittee to study the issue and create solutions.

* Skinner has proposed utilizing technology so placards and plates can be read electronically, then matched and verified. White said the biggest problem is a lack of enforcement.

* Chicago launched an effort to increase enforcement by the Chicago Police Department, with Mayor Emanuel emphasizing the abuse cheats individuals who are disabled and taxpayers who must pay for free disabled meter parking.

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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