The complex that is home to the Veterans Affairs Clinic and the El Paso County Department of Human Services is notorious for its lack of parking.
We watched the area last week and in matter of minutes found two vehicles parked without the required disabled license plate or placard displayed on the dash or rear-view mirror.
On one side of the county building the handicap parking places were full and the front spot was occupied by a car without any handicap signs, which in Colorado Springs is punishable by a $100 ticket.
One woman said, "Don't take a picture of it."
She raced out to the car, unlocked the door, and took a handicap notice from her sun visor and moved it to the dashboard. That's where it is supposed to be displayed.
I told her, "We're just doing a story about people parking where they're not supposed to."
She obviously didn't want to talk and neither did another man on the other side of the building, who was sitting in his car in a disabled spot with the engine running.
I asked him, "Do you have a placard or a sticker?"
He said, "No, I'm just waiting for somebody coming out right now."
I continued, "Okay, but do you know you're parked in a disabled parking place?"
He said, "Yeah, but I'm just picking up someone right now."
I added, "But if there's someone who's handicapped, they might need this spot."
He remarked, "I already knew that; I'm just waiting for someone real quick, sorry, could you stop filming, please?"
One and a half minutes later, he moved to another spot in the parking lot.
We talked to folks at the Colorado Springs Independence Center, where the goal is to empower those with disabilities. One person we spoke with told us, "I did confront somebody once and they told me to f-off." Another said, "I think it's disrespectful."
Pat Berney often brings her 28-year-old son, Joe to the Friday lunch bunch at the center. Pat says, "If they'd just realize there are reasons for this."
She says without designated disabled parking, they'd have a tough time getting around. Her biggest gripe: people who park too close to them and make it hard for her to get Joe in and out without scraping their car.
Phil Hall, a disabled veteran, is a volunteer with the Colorado Springs Police Department's Handicap Parking Enforcement Unit. He says, "It upsets me quite a bit when a handicapped person has to park two or three rows away and walk past a car that's not handicapped."
Right now Phil and another volunteer write up about 30 tickets a month. He says Colorado law is crystal clear unless you get a placard or plate from the Department of Motor Vehicles, illegally parking in a disabled spot can cost you a $100 ticket.
Phil says the word's out. Most people know the Springs Police Department is short-staffed and no longer able to actively patrol private and public parking lots for violators. He said, "They know they won't write them as often and so they do violate more often."
But four new volunteers have undergone training and will soon be added to the ranks. That means violators may have a tougher time getting away with breaking the law.
The Springs police department says it's always looking for volunteers.
If you're interested in helping catch disabled parking violators, check out the link below this story.
Another piece of good news is that The El Paso County Human Services Department will be moving to its new location, at the Intel building on Garden of the Gods Road in January. County officials say that should eliminate the parking problem.
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