A plainclothes Department of Motor Vehicles enforcement officer strolled along Ninth and N streets Wednesday afternoon, keeping his eyes peeled on the driver of a gray Toyota Prius.
The car, parked just a block away from the state Capitol, was sporting a disabled parking placard. But when the officer ran the car’s plates, the name of the car’s owner and the placard did not match, said Tom Edwards, a DMV investigations commander overseeing the enforcement operation.
“Before we contact them, we run the name on the plate and the placard and see if the the names match,” Edwards said. “In this case, they did not. It was kind of a hint or tip that this was going to be a little bit different.”
Edwards said the investigators ultimately cited the man, who told the plainclothes officer that the disabled parking placard belonged to a coworker who did not carpool with him that day. The placard was taken by officers and put into evidence, Edwards said. The driver of the Prius declined to talk to The Sacramento Bee about the citation.
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He was one of 13 people who were cited in the Sacramento-area sting. The operation, one of hundreds that take place throughout the state every year, was carried out by about 21 DMV investigators who focused on streets near the state Capitol and the downtown area. A total of 86 drivers were contacted by the agency’s investigators Wednesday, said Jaime Garza, DMV spokesman.
Penalties for carrying a disabled parking placard include a misdemeanor citation in most counties and fines ranging from hundreds of dollars to more than $1,000, Edwards said. One common misuse of the placards includes the borrowing of a placard that belongs to a family member while they are not in the car. Edwards said the placard is only supposed to be used by the person who it is issued to.
“This is one of those days where we are out on a proactive role to try and find individuals who are misusing these products,” he said.
Scott Greminger, an 11-year agency veteran, was one one of the plainclothes officers patrolling around the Capitol. He said large supermarket parking lots, college campuses and heavily populated business areas where parking is difficult to find are hotspots for the illegal use disabled parking placards.
“Honestly, our goal is to not get any of them,” Scott said as he walked along L Street.
Elnora Fretwell, a Sacramento resident, was one of the drivers approached Wednesday. Unlike the gray Prius, Fretwell was able to show officers a registration card issued under her name that was given to her by the DMV along with the placard. She was contacted by officers while parked at 10th and L streets.
“I tell my kids they can’t use my card,” she said. “(The officers) are just doing their job.”
Margaret Johnson, an advocacy director with Disability Rights California, said the DMV operation was a positive move. Johnson said the parking passes are an important tool for people with disabilities because it helped them participate in regular life.
“We don’t have a problem with the DMV going out at all,” she said. “People may be parking in spaces that people with disabilities really need.”