|Updated: 11/30/2012 7:37 pm
||Published: 11/30/2012 7:15 pm
Shoppers stealing handicap parking spots is annoying and illegal.
Last weekend at Woodland Hills Mall, Mingo Valley Division Traffic Officers working Operation Safe Shopper issued more than 50 handicap violations.
“We are seeing people who have temporary placards that are expired or they have altered them in some way to make them look like they are good,” said Cpl. Brian Collum.
Tulsa police said some violators said they were running into the mall for a short errand.
“That quick minute will cost you $150,” said Collum.
Finding a parking spot in shopping centers is a nuisance but it’s just ornery and illegal when shoppers steal a handicap spot.
"They have no respect for nobody. Not even for themselves when they do stuff like that,” said handicap driver Jessie Hendrickson.
She and her friend who is also handicapped said they often have to park further away because of handicap violators.
“I have a bad lung problem so I can't park in the back but I do," said Pauline Barnett. "Not by choice."
Some said they have been cut off by shoppers.
"This lady pulled right up and she didn't have a handicap," said handicap driver Mary Finch.
Mrs. Hendrickson said drivers are not remorseful.
"They laugh at you because they got it," said Hendrickson.
Police are not laughing about the problem.
"I write the citation," said Officer Greg McGowan.
If there is no visible handicap placard or license plate TPD will write a $150 fine. Oklahoma Highway Patrol can write you a $500 fine.
As part of Operation Safe Shopper Tulsa police officers are enforcing handicap parking through December. On the paperless system officers can also take a picture to show proof.
"No visible placard," said McGowan.
You can’t fool an officer with just any handicap placard.
"We actually look at the letters and know to check them," said McGowan.
All placards have an expiration date and permanent one’s do not exist in Oklahoma anymore. Placards with letters A-G have expired.
Even handicap drivers are breaking the law. FOX23 News spotted a woman with a valid handicap placard park in the red zone.
"This is for emergency vehicles," said McGowan.
She didn’t mind getting the ticket that comes with a $60 fine.
"Oh that's okay. I'll just get it dropped."
Drivers may also try to hide the expiration date with scarves or necklaces. Some try to squeeze between the handicap spots and park in the yellow lines.
"You are taking up a handicap spot and blocking,” said McGowan.
Those spots are designated for larger handicap vehicles with people who have disabilities so they have room to get out.
To stay off of Santa’s naughty list, police remind shoppers they are not the only ones who need a parking spot. Handicap drivers are relieved to see police enforcing the law.
“It makes room for people that need it instead of those kids that run in to the store and do their shopping for someone who needs to park in the handicap," Hendrickson.
Police said you can park in the parking spaces with the handicap emblem painted on the pavement when there is no sign posted. That is considered a courtesy parking spot but police recommend you be considerate with handicap drivers.
If you are a legal handicap driver and received a ticket because it wasn’t visible or it was expired you can go to the City of Tulsa Prosecutor’s Office located at 600 Civic Center.
You have a month from when the ticket was issued to show that you are up to date. Prosecutor Bob Garner recommends you bring a valid driver’s license and valid handicap placard.
Once confirmed with DPS he said the ticket will be dismissed. He said the process takes about five to ten minutes and handicap parking is available near the prosecutor’s office on the first floor. However, this must be done within 30 days of when the ticket was issued.
Garner also recommends to avoid any confusion you should destroy your expired placard.
This year this City of Tulsa launched the Volunteer Disability Parking Program (VDPP). It’s designed to make sure driver’s who don’t need a handicap spot are held accountable to free up accessible spots.