Stolen Spaces: Detroit Handicap Parking Fraud Is Rampant

‘Stolen Spaces’: Handicap Parking Fraud Rampant in Detroit

We have all seen this scenario somewhere: a driver pulls into a handicap parking space, hops out of the car, and zips into the store, office, or bank. Disabled? No way, you think. Yes, a large percentage of these seemingly able-bodied drivers are taking advantage of handicap parking tags and stickers, but some situations might not be what they seem. In Detroit, a local news crew went out and staked out parking lots to see what kind of parking outlaws they could find.

A Detroit Free Press reporters took a videographer along while they visited shopping malls, grocery stores, pharmacies, and government buildings. When they saw seemingly able-bodied drivers using spaces reserved for those with disabilities, they approached the drivers. The results were as most would expect.

In front of city hall and juvenile court, drivers parked in spaces reserved with blue curbs and signs, and these drivers moved their vehicles when questions were asked. Outside of a Detroit Nordstrom in Troy, one able-bodied woman parked in a handicapped space became aggressive when reporters came near her car. She admitted that her disabled son was usually with her and asked, “Are you the police?” before rolling her eyes and moving her vehicle.

Some of the drivers they found had gone to extremes to park in designated spots, acquiring handicapped parking permits illegally. In Michigan, this action constitutes fraud, which is punishable by a $500 fine and a full month in jail!

Despite the “bad guys” stealing the handicap parking spots of Detroit’s drivers with disabilities, some surprising situations were discovered, such as drivers who looked able-bodied, but who in reality are legally blind, as well as drivers who have suffered from a series of strokes.

Some interesting facts that only make the stolen parking-space problem worse include:

  • The Michigan Department of State issues handicap permits but, until October of last year, did not track when tag holders passed away. This left valid handicapped parking tags in the hands of family of the deceased, who often continued to use the tags for themselves.
  • Police in metro Detroit do regularly ticket for this fraud.
  • Michigan does not track medical professionals who sign handicap permit applications, inviting more fraud.
  • Unlike most states, permit holders are not required to provide periodic medical updates to the state. This allows people to keep tags well past their necessity for short-term disabilities.
  • Expiration dates are handwritten, making changing the year from 2013 to 2018 as simple as buying a Sharpie.

What do YOU do when you see a seemingly able-bodied person park in a designated handicap parking spot?