A Blue Badge is a vital lifeline for many disabled people. Without a Blue Badge many disabled people would be stuck in their homes and would be totally dependent on others for help. This is why DMUK takes Blue Badge fraud very seriously. A person who doesn’t need a Blue Badge occupying a disabled bay unnecessarily is one less space for a genuine holder to use. If a disabled person cannot park at their desired destination they will often just have to go home without completing the task that they needed to do.
Blue Badge fraud has risen in the last eight years, and is starting to be taken more seriously by local authorities. The Metropolitan Police has not taken this lightly and is working with local authorities in London and their Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) to try to stop not only the misuse of Blue Badges, but also the circulation of stolen, fake and expired Badges.
The name OPERATION BODMIN was given to the Metropolitan Police and Harringay Council’s surge on the Green lanes area of London to hopefully prevent the ongoing misuse of Blue Badges. The operation took place on Thursday 25th February where 11 Police Constables, three members of the Harringay Council and two Civil Enforcement Officers went out to tackle abusers. DMUK External Affairs Manager, Duncan Slater, was asked along to represent DMUK in an observational role to see how this problem is being tackled.
On the streets with the enforcement team
Within the first 20 minutes of the operation CEOs had confiscated one Blue Badge that was being used by a relative of the Blue Badge holder, and one vehicle was being towed to the Council compound as the Blue Badge being used had expired. As soon as the public saw there was a visible police presence and it became apparent that Blue Badges were being checked it was surprising, or perhaps not, the number of vehicles further down the street that suddenly had to leave. From talking to the CEOs it transpires that it is quite common for a lot of the shop owners to use relatives Blue Badges so that they can park in front of their premises without having to pay. Duncan Slater spoke to one local who commented that “a lot of people round here buy Blue Badges to save on parking” and Blue Badges are sold on the black market for a cost anywhere in the region from £50 to £1000, depending on the condition and if they have a decent looking hologram on the front.
Genuine Blue Badge holders were more than happy to let the CEOs inspect their badge as they know the value and benefit of being able to use a genuine badge for its intended use, we got a good reception from those residents.
After four hours they had confiscated three Blue Badges and two vehicles were towed away, and the Operation Bodmin team prepared to move to the area of White Hart Lane for the Tottenham Hotspur home game where Blue Badge misuse is notoriously high due to limited parking. People take advantage of the Blue Badge’s ability to allow users to park on single and double yellow lines. To gain maximum benefit of the Blue Badge some fraudulent users park very close to the ground moments before kick-off to get the three hours free parking without having to buy a parking ticket.
As the Police and Council Officers started to inspect vehicles there were a lot of genuine Blue Badge users that were, again, happy to have someone inspect their Blue Badge as they had nothing to hide. However, after half an hour more vehicles were identified as persistent Blue Badge offenders and had their Blue Badges confiscated on the spot and Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) issued. A further three vehicles were removed and the owners face having to pay a £250 fine to get their vehicle back.
The main outcome that the Police, Council Officers and the Civil Enforcement Officers wanted to achieve from this operation is to make sure that accessible parking is not abused and is only made available for genuine Blue Badge holders as people abusing the system make it unfair and cause major problems by taking up disabled parking. The fact that stolen badges, expired badges and counterfeit badges are changing hands for various sums of money is in itself is a criminal act that needs to be stopped.
The Police Constable who was in charge of the operation, PC Craig Carter, would like to widen this operation to cover all of London in order to clamp down on the misuse of the Blue Badges. With the cooperation of local councils and the CEOs this operation will become a much more regular occurrence on the streets of London and hopefully other cities across the UK.
DMUK External Affairs Manager, Duncan Slater, commented: “It is very important that DMUK helps in any way we can, by supporting this operation and others like it. One of the charity’s major aims is to try to stop the misuse of Blue Badges across the UK.”