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POLICE TARGETING ABUSE OF HANDICAPPED PLACARDS.

Byline: Nicholas Grudin Staff Writer

GLENDALE - Scores of motorists have been cited at the Glendale Galleria this month for fraudulently using handicapped parking placards as holiday shopping hordes make spaces harder to come by, officials said Friday.

Glendale police issued two dozen citations on Thursday alone, and last week ticketed more than 60 people for falsely using handicapped placards at the popular mall.

``We experience a significant increase in misuse of handicapped placards during the holiday season in particular because parking is so hard to come by,'' said Glendale Traffic Officer David Buckley.

Glendale police expect to hand out more than 150 placard citations - each carrying a $1,200 fine - this holiday season, a significant jump from the occasional placard offense over the rest of the year, Lt. Don Meredith said.

``People think it's an easy way to scam the system, but they're creating a major problem for people who truly are disabled,'' Meredith said.

Wendy Welt, vice chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Commission on Disabilities, was pleased by the police patrols.

``It's great that the police are cracking down on this and giving out more tickets - it's a very important issue because people with disabilities really need those spots,'' said Welt, who was born without arms or legs and uses a wheelchair. ``There aren't very many spaces, so that makes it even more important.''

Typically, offenders use a handicapped tag legitimately issued to a disabled relative or friend to park in spots reserved for the disabled - spaces often empty in otherwise full parking lots.

Wednesday afternoon, for example, police said Sandra Caluya, 40, of Glendale parked in a handicapped zone at the Galleria right next to a police patrol car.

When the officer saw Caluya get out of her car with no apparent disability, he inquired about the reason for the handicapped placard, according to a police report.

Caluya said she had diabetes, but a check with the Department of Motor Vehicles revealed what the officer suspected all along.

``It's my mother's,'' Caluya reportedly told the officer.

Caluya was cited and released for holiday shopping.

Her mother's placard will likely be revoked by the DMV, Buckley said.

``People don't realize how serious an offense it is,'' Buckley said. ``It's just not fair to people who really do have disabilities.''

Parking in a handicapped zone without a placard results in a ticket of $375.

The problem is not exclusive to Glendale.

In December 2001, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation's handicapped enforcement detail wrote 1,125 citations for people misusing handicapped placards, or illegally parking in handicapped spaces.

So far this December they have written 385 citations. The first two weeks of December, the detail focused entirely on UCLA in response to neighborhood complaints. A shift away from malls accounts for this year's decline in citations, said DOT Officer Jerome Holmes.

``We haven't spent all our time at shopping centers and malls this year,'' Holmes said. ``They had a serious problem at UCLA that needed to be addressed. But now we are back in the areas we normally enforce during December.''

The city's handicapped enforcement detail has 10 officers, and they respond to areas in which they receive complaints, Holmes said. If there aren't any active complaints, they patrol parking areas throughout the city.

The fine for misusing a placard in Los Angeles is $330, as is the fine for illegally parking in a handicapped spot. So if a motorist parks in a handicapped spot and misuses a placard, the total fine is $660, Holmes said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 21, 2002
Words:587
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