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Police Asked To Nab Parking Scofflaws Cars In Spots For Handicapped Frustrate Disabled Veterans

Frustrated with people parking in spots set aside for the disabled, the Disabled American Veterans began attaching “please don’t park here” signs to violators’ windshields.

The veterans got phone threats. The campaign stopped.

Disabled advocate Mike Prokop tried a similar approach. He and other volunteers photographed violators’ cars and license plates for prosecution.

“The volunteers just got tired,” he said. “It was just me.”

The city’s law against parking in spaces for the handicapped isn’t working, Coeur d’Alene’s committee for the disabled told Police Chief Dave Scates on Thursday.

Members urged the chief to rein in scofflaws.

“We’ve got adequate spaces, but they’re just misused,” said Krystie Robbins, a member of the committee.

“People say ‘Oh, it’s just for a minute,”’ said Prokop, who walks with a cane. “I tell them I wish I was only disabled for a minute.”

The chief said he’d take the issue to the city attorney and try to get a tougher ordinance drafted. The City Council must approve changes in ordinances.

The city issues more than 450 tickets a year to people illegally parking in the handicapped spots, Scates estimated.

It’s easy for police to ticket the cars if they’re parked illegally on public streets, he said. City law allows such tickets to be left stuck to the windshield. The registered owner of the vehicle must pay.

“On public streets, it’s simple,” the chief said.

It’s much tougher, he said, to enforce handicapped parking laws on private property, such as shopping malls or grocery store parking lots.

There, state law requires that the violator must sign the citation or be personally served with the ticket. Since the car is parked, the driver is usually nowhere to be found.

“We have to give someone the ticket,” he said. “The question becomes how long can I keep somebody (a police officer) tied up in a parking lot waiting for someone to come back to the car?

“We’re equally as frustrated when you see the violation and there’s nothing you can do about it,” the chief told the committee.

Members of the group said store owners are reluctant to ask violators to move their cars.

“They don’t want to alienate a customer,” said Mike Hauser.

Property owners could tow the cars if a tow warning is posted, the chief said. But he said most store owners don’t want the trouble.

“I think it’s more of a deterrent,” he said.

Committee members will see what the council does before taking any more photos or handing out any warnings. But they hope a tougher ordinance is approved soon.

“You watch these people pull right in there and it’s clearly marked,” said Bernie Fox, a disabled veteran. “There’s many times I want to go out and take the air valves out of their tires.

“I haven’t,” he said, “but it shows they have no respect for people with disabilities.”