Steep fines sought for Baltimore parking permit fraud

Local,Stephen Janis
An ingenious ploy circumvents the Baltimore City parking permit law and allows people to park without restrictions using illegal permits in space-starved neighborhoods like Federal Hill and Mount Vernon, say parking officials.

Armed with a cell phone, non-residents are taking pictures of legitimate parking permits affixed to legal residents’ cars, printing them on color printers and placing them on their own car windshield, affording them the same parking privileges as residents.

To address this scheme and other abuses of residential parking permits throughout Baltimore, the City Council is trying to strengthen the laws that will slap heavy fines on motorists who willingly dupe parking enforcement agents.

“We’re putting teeth into the violations of residential permit parking laws,” said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, a sponsor of the bill to be introduced at tonight’s council meeting.

“You have people duplicating passes, moving out the neighborhood and selling their passes, or not relinquishing their permits when they move, all of which is illegal,” said the bill’s other sponsor, Councilman William Cole.

In 2006, the council passed a residential parking permit law that restricts parking in 30 city neighborhoods for drivers without a permit.
But the original law allowed only parking enforcement agents to issue a $1,000 civil citation to violators who used fake or improper permits.

The problem? Civil citations can’t be placed on the windshield like a parking ticket. State law requires they be issued face to face, meaning parking agents were forced to wait for a violator to actually show up at his or her car before a citation could be issued.

“We found out the parking agents couldn’t do anything except wait for the driver, which wasn’t really practical use of the agent’s time,” Cole said.

“This law will fix that problem.”

If the bill passes, Cole said the city parking enforcement agents finally can crack down on permit scofflaws with an immediate $500 ticket — a stiff penalty that Coles said should free up space for residents with legitimate permits.

“Let’s face it: Around the downtown areas people will do just about anything to avoid paying for parking, but now they will have to pay a steep price,” he said.

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