More MS news articles for Aug 2001

City cracking down on handicapped parking scofflaws

August 3, 2001
The Brownsville Herald

There is no shortage of outlaws in the Brownsville area. Drug traffickers. Murderers. People parking in handicapped spaces?

More than triple the number of citations were issued in July by local law enforcement than last year in an apparent crackdown on scofflaws parking in spaces reserved for the disabled.

But parking intended to help others in special circumstances lacks the same bite.

"There was increased enforcement (of handicapped parking violations)," said Acting Police Chief Carlos L. Garcia. "My office had received numerous complaints on not having strict enforcement on those (disabled) plates."

In July, 79 citations were issued compared to 23 a year ago, said Assistant City Attorney John Shergold, who is charged with prosecuting cases that go to trial. Fines start at $250.

"I instructed the Traffic Enforcement Division to be a little more aggressive," Garcia said.

The increase is also partly due to Brownsvilleís growing number of stores, which translates to more disabled parking, Shergold said.

Next to the white-wheelchair-on-blue parking signs at Sunrise Mall are "Reserved parking for new mothers & mothers to-be" signs.

A green stroller is displayed on the signs, whose enforcement has as much bite as a toothless newborn. Unlike the disabled parking, there are no laws backing the mom spots.

"Thatís a tricky one," mall general manager Cesar R. Briseño Jr. said about enforcing the space reserved for pregnant women.

"We wanted to do something nice for the community. The thing about it is itís very difficult to enforce it," he said about the signs added after the mallís renovation last summer.

The 45 "courtesy" spots were placed due to the young demographics of Brownsville, Briseño said. Violators are "asked nicely" by security if they donít need the space not the use it.

Another ambiguous courtesy is the "No parking illness" signs often found in older neighborhoods.

Like the mom spaces, there is no legal backing to the illness signs intended to assist residents requiring home health care, City Parking Superintendent Robert Esparza said. A homeowner can get the free sign installed if he or she presents a letter from a doctor.

Police can ask a motorist to move if blocking such a space, he said.

Esparza was asked, what about city blocks were the signs are posted at one house after another ó is everybody on the block ill?

"I donít have the manpower to go check them," he answered, adding that some signs have been removed after tips from neighbors that a resident is not sick. Requests for the illness signs vary from five to zero a month, Esparza said.

"I donít want to put too many up," he said. "The streets look clogged and it looks like the whole city is ill."

Ultimately, officials said, the choice whether to park in a space reserved for someone who may need it is up to each motorist.

© 2000 The Brownsville Herald