WALLINGFORD — An increased number of reported handicapped parking violations at department stores has prompted police to start a special patrol to catch violators.
Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio said handicapped parking violations seem to occur more frequently during the holiday shopping season.
“We’re seeing more and more people who are not qualified to park in those handicap spaces park in them anyways,” Dortenzio said. “If you park there and you’re not supposed to, you shouldn’t be surprised if enforcement action is taken. The handicap spaces are for those in need.”
Sgt. Michael Colavolpe and the department’s Community Police Unit will be patrolling store parking lots through the holiday shopping season.
“Although handicap parking violations are enforced on a daily basis, the Community Police Unit will be intently focusing on this initiative through the holiday period,” Colavolpe said in a statement.
Motorists are misusing state handicapped placards and special license plates, Colavolpe said. State statute specifies that handicapped placards can only be used by those who were issued the placard. If a car isn’t occupied or operated by the person who was issued the placard, it cannot be parked in a handicapped spot. This also applies to vehicles with special license plates. Colavolpe said the fine for unauthorized use of a handicapped placard or special license plate is $150 for the first offense.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. is aware of the increased complaints about illegal handicapped parking.
“If your vehicle is not appropriately designated to be parked in a handicap spot, police are not going to ignore it,” Dickinson said. “Others who have the privilege aren’t pleased when they can’t use the spots. People have to respect the law.”
Officers will drive through retail store parking lots during their normal patrol, Dortenzio said. Those who have been issued handicapped placards are reminded to display them properly by hanging them from their vehicle’s rear view mirror or in clear view on the dashboard.
During the first day of increased enforcement last week, four people were cited for either illegally parking in a handicapped parking spot or misusing a handicapped placard, Colavolpe said. Many more were deterred from illegally parking because officers were visible in the area, he said.