Editorial: Welcome law targets abuse of handicapped parking

Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette

There are plenty of ways to “game the system” as the saying goes, but abusing handicapped parking spots with bogus credentials is one of the more shameful.

Handicapped placards, both temporary or permanent, are intended to allow a shorter traveling distance for people with disabilities. They exist to help our most vulnerable residents get where they need to go, as conveniently and safely as possible with dedicated parking.

But the handicapped parking placard system has been abused and misused in the commonwealth for many years, including in Hampshire County. The Gazette reported last week, 33 fraudulent handicapped placards have been seized in Northampton alone in 2017, including from one person who allegedly photocopied a placard and colored it in with crayons to make it look real. In almost all cases, the placards were being used to avoid paying for parking.

And the problem is not confined to cities where parking is at a premium and metered. In May, Southampton Police seized three handicapped placards during its stepped-up enforcement of abuse. In two of the cases, people were using placards that belonged to deceased family members, a frequently reported abuse.

“It’s an equity issue,” Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz told Gazette reporter Bera Dunau, adding that those who misuse the placards hurt disabled people who really need the designated spaces.

Gov. Charlie Baker last week signed into law stiffer penalties for fraudulent use of handicapped parking credentials after they were unanimously approved by the Legislature.