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A City of Prineville planning commissioner raises concerns about misuse at recent meeting

There are some things in society that many people assume happens, but the degree to which it happens is not always known.

This appears to be the case when it comes to people misusing handicap parking spaces in Prineville.

Last week, Prineville Planning Commissioner Bob Orlando approached his fellow commissioners about misuse and abuse of the spaces that he had documented for some time. As a person who legally utilizes the spaces, he said he is among those inconvenienced by people who park in the spaces illegally when they do not need to.

He has seen a few different problems since he began looking into the situation more closely. First, people are taking handicap parking placards — the familiar blue and white items placed inside the car near a window — and altering the date on them.

Orlando said the placards are unfortunately easy to alter because the DMV writes the date on them with a marker. The ink wipes off fairly easily, Orlando confirmed after trying it for himself. He has seen young adults with these doctored placards hop out of their car and literally run into a store.

Other people are not even worrying about whether they have a placard and park in the spaces. Like the people altering the placards, they exit the vehicle showing no outward signs of needing a special parking space.

These actions are certainly troubling. One could assume that people abuse the handicap parking spaces from time to time, but when a city planning commissioner considers it a big enough issue to mention it at a government meeting and form a citizen-led committee to put a stop to it, it's obvious the problem is far worse than that.

Orlando points out that city law enforcement lacks the resources to patrol handicap parking violations, and there is no reason to argue that point. How many parking lots would police need to patrol daily during business hours to make the practice effective?

But with the citizen committee, enforcement has a chance. A smartphone app exists that enables people to document potential handicap parking violations and forward a picture or other information about the vehicle to the police department or the DMV. Both agencies could then check the information and find out if a violation has indeed taken place.

This is a great idea that hopefully gains traction and gets embraced by citizens and law enforcement alike. People who truly need those parking spaces shouldn't have to be inconvenienced or harmed in any way because another able-bodied individual doesn't want to walk a few more feet to enter a place of business.

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