Illegal parking permit use ongoing issue

Five people were cited for illegal use of permits during Saturday’s basketball game.
March 10, 2009

A University of Minnesota Regent’s Professor was among five people cited for illegal use of disability permits during a period of heavy traffic caused by a men’s basketball game Saturday at Williams Arena.
The illegal use of parking permits is something University of Minnesota police deal with almost every time a popular event takes place, and policing the issue is something they take pride in, University police Lt. Troy Buhta said.
Of the five illegally used permits Saturday, two were from deceased relatives; one stolen from an unrelated deceased person, and the other just plain stolen, according to police reports.
Robert Hebbel , a Regent’s Professor from the University medical school, allegedly used his wife’s disability parking permit to park outside a medical building Saturday afternoon, the police report said. Hebbel said he used the permit illegally because “there was nowhere else to park,” the police report said.
Hebbel could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
There is usually ample parking around athletic facilities, but oftentimes places like the University Academic Health Center are cramped for space, University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said.
University police issue at least four or five citations every week, Buhta said. Citations run around $500 per fine, which Buhta said sends a stark message to parking violators.
Tickets for parking in handicap spots without a permit cost around $200. Miner said if people are planning on illegally parking, they’re better off parking at a spot without a permit and “rolling the dice.”
Officers often send moral messages to parking violators when citations are issued as well, Buhta said.
“It’s a moral judgment. Just using ‘being able to park close’ is not a good enough excuse,” he said.
While some people tend to lie and come up with excuses, many people fess up to their crimes right away, Miner said.
“People usually express remorse,” Miner said, “or try to rationalize using the handicapped parking.”
There are three parking ramps within a four block radius of Williams Arena, as well as several flat lots, Miner said.
This is enough for people trying to park, University Parking and Transportation Services spokesman Mary Sienko said .
“I think we have spots located all around campus and we seem to be meeting the need for disability parking,” Sienko said.
There are 88 3-hour on-street handicap parking spots across the Twin Cities campus, according to Sienko.
The University Avenue parking ramp across from Williams Arena holds 526 parking spaces, 11 of which are disability.
University police have a traffic patrol officer on duty during weekdays, but not during weekend games because the four patrol officers and sergeants typically on duty include parking checks on their patrols.
University police are prepared to intensify their parking patrols once TCF Bank Stadium opens next fall, Miner said.
For football season ticket holders, there are designated disability spots that will be in the Maroon and Gold lots around TCF Bank Stadium, Sienko said.
Miner said that because of the cost and the lack of parking available, they anticipate an increase in fraudulent disability permits.

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