Cheektowaga Police crack down on illegal use of handicap spots

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – In the past week, Cheektowaga Police have been cracking down on able-bodied drivers caught parking illegally in handicap spaces.

Authorities say 90 tags were verified as valid, 14 were confiscated for being illegal or expired, 20 parking tickets were issued, and 12 vehicle and traffic summons were issued. Police began taking a closer look at who was using the handicapped spaces outside the Walmart in the Thruway Plaza in response to a flurry of complaints about drivers fraudulently using handicap placards.

Lt. Brian Gould said, “Using other people’s tags and taking the spots of handicapped people.”

Normally, patrol officers would simply drive through the parking lot to make sure each vehicle parked in a handicapped spot, has a placard.

“Since this complaint was a little bit more specific, we decided to take a different approach, and actually stop and talk to the people who were parking in the handicap spots, and just verifying that the permit that they are using is, in fact, issued to them or somebody in the vehicle,” Lt. Gould explained.

Officers say they confiscated three placards the first night. And many of the vehicle and traffic summons were written to a relative or friend using the rightful owner’s handicap placard.

Lt. Gould said, “It’s an important message to get out to the public, that the permits are issued to a person and not the vehicle. And if the person is not in the vehicle, you’re not allowed to use the parking space.”

The stepped-up enforcement effort has even helped officers make some unrelated arrests.

“Through our week of doing this, we’ve served five warrants on people,” Lt. Gould said. “We also had one person who actually gave name and date of birth of the person who the permit was issued to, although that wasn’t who she really was, which led into a criminal impersonation arrest.”

He says police have already heard compliments from many legitimate placard owners.

“Sometimes, they can’t walk from the back end of the parking lot, which would make it very inconvenient and difficult for them to do something as simple as going food shopping. It’s not right.”

Police are encouraging the public to tip them off as they continue to step up enforcement efforts. If you see someone illegally using a handicap spot or using a handicap spot without a permit, call 686-3501.

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