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Council member: D.C. parking plagued by phony disability placards

Tuesday - 2/4/2014, 8:39am  ET

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A car displaying a disability placard issued from Maryland sits outside an office building on New Jersey Avenue in Northeast D.C. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

WASHINGTON - Finding an open parking space in the District requires deft management of patience and self-control.

Drivers circle. They hit the hazard lights. Some people even pray.

Some drivers, however, have found a way to cheat the system: fake disability parking placards.

"It's a wonderful way to come into the capital of the United States and park all day for nothing," Councilmember Jim Graham, Ward 1, says sarcastically. "We have got to get to the bottom of this once and for all."

The issue is not new, but anecdotal accounts suggest it may be a growing problem.

Last week, District residents testified before a council committee that entire blocks and some neighborhoods are surrounded by cars displaying disability parking placards. Most have out-of-state tags.

"We know they're being printed and sold in Maryland," Graham says.

The solution to blocking fraudulent placards -- especially those from outside the District -- remains elusive. The allure to drivers only increases as parking spaces become scarcer and more expensive.

In addition to parking free, placards allow drivers to park for double the posted time in any metered spaces without paying the meter, according to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

Graham offers a possible fix: giving parking enforcement officers the tools to check a placard's number against a database in Maryland.

"It's just car after car after car with Maryland placards," Graham says.

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