Citation-Writing Volunteers Leading to Fewer Disabled Parking Space Abusers

Volunteers trained by police to write tickets for able-bodied folks who park in disabled-only spaces have helped reduce the number of Phoenix citations for the offense in recent years, says a Phoenix detective.

The civilian volunteers have teamed up with police to ticket offenders since 2000, and city officials want the public to know they'll be out in force at the Valley's busiest shopping malls this holiday season. But Phoenix Detective Walter Olsen, who oversees the police "Accessibility Compliance Enforcement" program, says fewer citations than ever will be written this year thanks in part to the volunteers.

About 3,000 to 4,000 people annually were cited in Phoenix for parking in handicapped spaces in the early 2000s, Olsen says. The numbers have been steadily dropping -- to about 2,000 last year and an expected 1,500 this year, he says.

"I'd like to think that we made a difference," Olsen says of the coordinated effort by police and about 15 volunteers, some of whom as disabled themselves.

Another factor for the drop is likely the increased fine for the offense. Last year, Phoenix upped the penalty for parking in a handicapped spot from $140 to $250. People who alter a handicapped placard face a fine of $500.

Gina Schuh of Mesa, (at right), reigning Ms. Wheelchair Arizona, has made disabled parking one of her priorities. If you can't figure out why it's important to leave these spaces empty for the people who need them, just read Schuh's platform speech. -- Ray Stern

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern