suntimes
UPBEAT 
Weather Updates

Case after case, people are spotted using others’ handicap-parking placards

REPORTING ABUSE

Handicap-parking complaints can be filed with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office online at cyberdriveillinois.com. Click on “Parking Program for Persons with Disabilities Abuse Complaint Form.”

PENALTIES

†People caught using handicap placards or handicap license plates without the placard- or plate-holder present face a fine of at least $500 and a 30-day driver’s license suspension. The police also can confiscate illegally used placards.

†Doctors who make false statements to help someone obtain a handicap plate or placard face fines of up to $1,000.

†People caught altering placards; manufacturing fakes; using fake, lost or stolen placards; or selling real or fake placards could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by jail time, fines of up to $2,500 and a one-year driver’s license suspension.

MORE ONLINE

See Sun-Times video of able-bodied people using handicap placards and read Parts 1 and 2 of this series at suntimes.com.

Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: December 16, 2011 8:20AM



A handicap-parking placard issued to a woman from Galena ends up inside the car of a Chicago man, who uses it to park for free at a metered spot.

Last May, a Gold Coast woman dies at the age of 92. Four months later, her handicap-parking placard is spotted in a car registered to couple from Little Village.

A 73-year-old woman has her placard confiscated by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office because a relative had been ticketed for using it illegally. The same woman gets a new placard — and, again, somebody other than herself is illegally spotted using it, this time in September.

These are among 82 cases in which the Chicago Sun-Times documented seemingly able-bodied people using handicap placards or handicap license plates to park throughout the South Loop, around the Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California and at other spots in Chicago.

In September and October, the newspaper worked with retired Chicago Police Lt. Robert Angone — whose 19-year-old daughter lost her left leg to cancer when she was 6 months old — to document the growing number of people using handicap placards and plates to park for free as parking-meter rates in Chicago have been rising.

Illinois law long has allowed disabled people to park all day for free in metered spots, and — with one handicap placard in circulation for every 13 passenger vehicles throughout Cook County — the system is rife with abuse, the Sun-Times investigation found.

Angone and the newspaper observed dozens of cases in which seemingly able-bodied people used placards or plates to park for free on the street, where they otherwise would have to use a kiosk to pay to park. Also, in a handful of cases, Angone documented drivers using placards to park at handicap-only spots in parking lots.

Several of those cases — including one in which a woman was parking for free using a stolen placard — were highlighted Sunday and Monday in the Sun-Times. Those cases represent a fraction of the way the placards are being used to cheat meters. Here are some other examples. In each case, the parties involved either didn’t want to talk with a reporter or couldn’t be reached for comment:

†Aug. 30, 2 p.m. — A man who appears to be in his 50s uses a placard that belongs to a 48-year-old woman to park in a handicap-only spot at Southgate Market in the South Loop. After parking, the man is observed working out at an LA Fitness center.

†Sept. 9, 2011: 10:35 a.m. — A man who appears to be in his mid-30s parks for free in a metered spot in the 1100 block of South Jefferson Street using a placard registered to a 66-year-old woman from Hillside.

†Sept. 14, 8:40 a.m. — A woman who appears to be in her 40s parks an Infiniti Q45 along Jefferson Street near Vernon Park Place and doesn’t feed the $3-per-hour meter box. The handicap placard she posts is registered to a 73-year-old woman who has the same last name as the person to whom the Infiniti is registered.

But the older woman to whom the placard is registered isn’t present — which makes it illegal to use the tag to park for free.

Secretary of State’s Office records show that another placard that once belonged to the same 73-year-old woman had been confiscated because a relative had been using it. The 73-year-old has since gotten a new placard — so that appears to be what’s happened again.

†Sept. 16, 4 p.m. — A man who looks to be in his late 20s parks a Ford Escort station wagon in a handicap-only spot in a free lot at the Showplace Icon movie theaters at 150 W. Roosevelt Rd. Because he takes the spot, someone else who is obviously disabled drives past and is forced to park “about 75 yards away,” Angone observes.

The placard in the man’s car is registered to Florence Chill, a Gold Coast woman who died in May at age 92, records show. She doesn’t appear to be related to the driver of the Ford, which is registered to a couple in Little Village.

†Oct. 6, 8:55 a.m. — A man who appears to be in his late 50s parks his black Nissan in a metered spot in the 2700 block of South California, near the Cook County Criminal Courthouse. But the placard he displays in the car is registered to a 59-year-old woman from Galena.

†Oct. 6, 9 a.m. — A man who appears to be in his 30s parks for free in a metered spot in the 2600 block of California using a placard that belongs to a 68-year-old Chicago woman. He then walks to the Criminal Courts building.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.