Smartphone app could prevent illegal handicap parking

Smartphone app could prevent illegal handicap parking
Published: May. 14, 2012 at 5:00 PM CDT|Updated: May. 28, 2012 at 2:52 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Disabled drivers could soon get some relief from stolen parking spots, thanks to a new smartphone app in the works. It's designed to give citizens a quick and easy way to report violations that result in tickets for the owner of any vehicle caught illegally parked.

As it is, the majority of tickets issued in Shreveport and Bossier City for handicap parking violations originate with calls from upset citizens. Bossier City spokesperson Mark Natale says they typically write between five to 10 citations each month. Many of the violations are found in the lots of large retail stores and shopping centers.

Corporal Van Wray with the Shreveport Police Department says he has seen numerous violations during his tenure with the department, but it's not always easy to tell at a glance. "We don't know who's driving these cars," said Wray. "We don't know if the person driving the car is not handicap and just parked there."

Other times, a quick look at the expiration date gives the violator away. We found one that had been expired since 2007 and another since 2011. Whatever the reason drivers may offer for illegally parking in these spots, Wray says they are not for the convenience of able-bodied drivers. "These spots are dedicated to those people who have certified medical conditions that need that spot so they can, so they don't have to travel as far," said Wray.

They're meant for people like Duane Ebarb, who has spent the past 44 years getting in and out of his van using a wheelchair. He says he has grown numb to people who illegally park in spaces designated for disabled drivers like him. But now, he hopes to do something about it.

Ebarb has joined forces with a friend who has developed a smartphone app that could drastically cut down on the number of people who park in handicap spots. It's called parking mobility. Here is how it works: citizens who see a car parked illegally in a handicapped space in a shopping center can take a picture using this app. They would then send that picture to the police department and it would go into a system. That system would then mail the violator a ticket.

We asked Shreveport if they had been contacted by this company to bring the app to the area. As of now they have not but according to Ebarb the Shreveport Bossier City has been designated as an area the company would target in the future.

"The city would have to pay the cost of the server and the up start for the app," said Ebarb. "They're working on major cities with populations of around one million or larger."

Those tickets that arrived in the mail would be expensive. In Shreveport, the cost for a first time offense is $300. If it was your second offense it would cost you $525 and if you did not pay those you could end up being booted.

Liz Swaine is the executive director of Shreveport's Downtown Development Authority. She says crews on the streets watch for illegal parking in downtown spots and also collect the cash from the city's parking tickets. "It's a disincentive to park in handicap spots but people still do it," said Swaine.

Swaine says the app would be a great idea for the area, but it would have to be approved by the city and the system would also have to be deemed constitutional by Louisiana law.

Click here to learn more about this app we have included links in this story on the company and how it works.

Copyright 2012 KSLA. All rights reserved.