Watch Out: The Parking Posse Is after Illegal Parkers

By Scanlan, Dan | The Florida Times Union, July 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Watch Out: The Parking Posse Is after Illegal Parkers


Scanlan, Dan, The Florida Times Union


Byline: DAN SCANLAN

Parking next to the front door of a supermarket: priceless access to the store.

Parking illegally in that handicapped spot: a $250 ticket.

Since June 7, 55 volunteers trained by the city have scoured parking lots and streets, seeking out able-bodied drivers who violate the city's disabled-parking law.

In its first four weeks, the city's new Parking Posse corralled 267 violators, bringing the city $14,000 in revenue from the tickets. Ninety-one more were written between July 7 and 11.

Mandarin resident Stanley Gellman lassoed 76 violators himself in the first month, saying he took the 40 hours of training from a Jacksonville police officer because he wanted to help the city. He has a handicapped tag because of his heart condition and finds the most likely violators at local supermarkets, movie theaters and The Avenues mall, especially in the rain.

"I am doing this on my normal travels. Wherever I am heading, I will go by," Gellman said. "[I do it] to make sure the handicapped, when they need a space, have one available. It's not to make the city any money."

Police officers and the city's parking enforcement officers routinely write up disabled parking violators, but the number of tickets written has doubled since those 55 volunteers started on patrol, said Dan McCarthy, head of the city's Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services Division. All it cost was the money to pay the officer who trained them, their background checks and funds for ID badges and ticket books.

"It has all been tremendous," McCarthy said. "We have one or two citizens who wanted to be sure these folks had the authority. But there have been a number of calls with gratitude that people are monitoring these spots."

To qualify for a disabled parking permit, drivers must have a state application form signed by a doctor, proving they have a disability, then pay $15 for a license plate sticker or tag for the rear-view mirror. That allows the driver to park in a marked 12-foot-wide disabled-parking space with 5-foot access aisles on each side.

Civilians have helped police officers and parking division officers ticket handicapped parking violators since 1990. But when McCarthy took over the Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services Division last fall, he heard lots of complaints about lack of enforcement. …

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