Illegal placard use become crime trend

Yuko Hirose and Yuko Hirose

The illegal use of handicapped placards in campus parking lots is on the rise.

Last semester, security confiscated a total of seven illegally-used disabled placards, according to Security Director Erik Fricke.

This semester, they have already confiscated nine placards, Fricke said.

“It’s a terrible abuse,” Fricke said. “I think it is an unfortunate problem that someone would try to cheat in order to get better parking.”

By law, only the people registered with the placard can use it. Unregistered users found illegally using the state-issued placards on campus face a $300 ticket and referral for disciplinary action from City College security.

“Many of the handicapped violators don’t realize what a serious issue this is,” Fricke said.

All reports are turned over to the Santa Barbara Police Department, which then sends it to the district attorney to decide whether to prosecute.

SBPD spokesperson Lt. Paul McCaffrey said they have received six referred cases from City College in the past 12 months.

Offenders can face a maximum fine of $3,500 for illegal use, as per California law.

According to Fricke, the modus operandi of offenders is to steal placards from handicapped people or to buy stolen placards from others.

Fricke said students also borrow them from handicapped family members.

Last fall, a student was found using his roommate’s deceased mother’s placard.

California law states that placards must surrendered to the Department of Motor Vehicles 60 days after the death of the registered owner.

“We get more complaints from handicapped people who say that they feel a particular person is using a handicapped space [who] is not really handicapped,” Fricke said. “They notice it.”

Many people on campus are shocked about this recurrent crime.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Liz Amidon, a photography professor at City College. “I don’t think we should be cheating. It is going to be harder for handicapped people to find a place.”

Student security officer Thibault Keppi agrees.

“That’s more than stupid,” Keppi said. “I think the punishment should be stricter, and the placard should be with picture ID and driver license so that we know who the owner is.”

Fricke guesses that there are some illegal placards used on campus that have not been found.

“We do [random checks] because we want to make sure that there is available parking for disabled individuals,” he said.