FOX 5 Investigates: Metro Handicap Parking - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

FOX 5 Investigates: Metro Handicap Parking

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The moon is still up. The cats are still on the prowl. But the first row of handicapped parking is already full at the Branch Avenue Metro Station in Prince George’s County.

’That’s why I get here as early as I do,’ said Sylestene Walker.

She has knee problems and snagged the last space in the first row at 4:46 a.m., long before the trains had even begun to run.

’Of course it frustrates me,’ Walker said. ’To see someone pull up, put the little sign like that hanging in their window,’ she points to a handicap placard hanging from a rearview window. ’And then they walk out with heels on.’

Mildred Williams agrees.

’It drives me crazy because I think whoever uses it should have a valid disability,’ said Williams.

Williams has asthma and cautions, ’a lot of people think that just because you can’t see a disability, people aren’t disabled. You can’t see mine, but it’s there.’

Which is why, to get answers, FOX 5 had to ask a very uncomfortable question.

Tisha Thompson: "If you don't mind me asking, what is your disability?’
Woman #1: "I have a train to catch."
Tisha Thompson: "We've had a lot of people complaining about using those placards when they don't really have a disability."
Woman #1: "I have a train to catch."
Tisha Thompson: "Is that your placard? Ma'am, is that your placard?"

She was in a hurry but returned just minutes later to move her car to a regular space.

’I have a bad knee.’
’I have asthma.’
’I was in a car accident and have a back injury.’

Most people were more than willing to tell us about their disabilities because they say they want someone to do something about the parking problem. One man with a muscular impairment told FOX 5, ’I witness myself too many [people] that are not even by the stretch of the imagination handicapped. It’s become a very unfortunate scam. Those who are handicapped are a little slower getting here and they have no space to park.’

We never got his name because at that moment, a woman in high yellow heels got out of an SUV parked in a van accessible space.

Tisha Thompson: ’We saw you parked in that handicapped space. May I ask you what your disability is?"
Woman #2: "No, you cannot."
Tisha Thompson: "We noticed you're wearing high-heeled shoes."
Woman #2: "Yes."
Tisha Thompson: "So, people are obviously going to ask questions. `Is she really disabled?"
Woman #2: "Yes, I am.’

She later called FOX 5 and admitted the SUV is not registered in her name but refused to say who owned the placard.

Tisha Thompson: "Do you mind me asking what your disability is?"
Woman #3: "No, you may not."

Tisha Thompson: "Do you mind me asking what your disability is?"
Woman #4: "Ah, yes I do."

Everyone who refused to tell us about their disability also told us they didn’t care if someone abused the system.

Tisha Thompson: "You don't have problems with people taking spaces when they don't need them?"
Woman #4: "No."

And then this person admitted he didn’t have a disability.

Man: "I don't have a disability."
Tisha Thompson: "You don't?"
Man: "No."
Tisha Thompson: "Is that your placard?"
Man: "Yes it, it’s for my spouse. Yes."
Tisha Thompson: "But you're parking in the handicapped space."
Man: "Yeah."
Tisha Thompson: "Is that fair?"
Man: "Maybe not."

The law says the person with the disability must be in the car in order for the placard to be used. So, why do it? We noticed all of these cars with disabled placards also have expired meters. That’s because Metro says disabled drivers don’t have to park at a metered spot.

FOX 5 spoke to one Metro police officer who says he’s frustrated with the problem and sees it everyday. But Metro says it doesn’t ask people to prove if the placards belong to them. Other jurisdictions, like Howard County, periodically conduct sting investigations to make sure people aren’t breaking the law.

This story started with a tip from a viewer. If you see something you want FOX 5 to investigate, CLICK HERE to submit your tip.

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