DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune
Madera police Sgt. Felix Gonzales writes a $250 ticket for a pickup truck illegally parked in a handicapped (HC) parking spot in front of the Pac N Save grocery store Wednesday afternoon. The unoccupied truck did not have the required license plate or hang tag required to park in the preferred parking location. Residents have long complained that HC spaces were being abused by persons without a disability or the actual need for the space.
In an effort Wednesday to crack down on able-bodied scofflaws using and abusing parking spaces reserved for persons with disabilities, the patrol unit of the Madera Police Department blanketed and moved between city parking lots looking for violations.
The four officers contacted 22 drivers and wrote 16 citations in a four-hour period. They also verified the paperwork issued and required to accompany any blue HC hang tags that drivers can take between vehicles.
Residents and disability advocates claim this portable, plastic hang tag is the most widely abused, often inappropriately used after an elder family member passes away, or when the HC person is not present in the vehicle.
Many residents witnessing the enforcement effort applauded the officers’ actions and said the HC enforcement was long overdue. Other drivers watched nervously as police circled the parking lots and checked for the HC license plates.
One disabled resident, Jeffery Neighbors, stopped to thank the officer and watch the effort with his wife Mary. He said he was surprised.
“I’ve waited so long to see this enforcement happen. My wife and I are both disabled. We see the abuse of these parking spaces all the time. It’s terrible. Not being able to get a space only adds to our stress, greatly impacts our lives and only adds more pain ... We are so thrilled to see this enforcement effort by officers today. I really hope they keep it up,” Neighbors said.
Police officials said they plan to continue the enforcement randomly to increase compliance, and also said the public feedback on the police Facebook site, after the enforcement was announced the day prior, was high, with most residents urging the police to ticket offenders and to not merely warn them.