Accessible parking spaces are being use with fraudulent parking permits

The cost of parking permit fraud on your business

How common is parking permit fraud at your organization?  Have you ever thought about the effect it has?  It’s more than just lost revenues, it is also about costs and controlling unused spaces.  Your team has to find, ticket, and pursue these culprits while they remove parking spaces for drivers who pay. This can be frustrating for employees and customers.

Accessible Parking Permit Fraud

The illegal use of accessible parking permits is one of the most high profile.  In many municipalities, parking is available free for holders with accessible permits so they are valuable to have.  Some are obtained dishonestly from doctors while others are obtained legally but used by someone else.  In some municipalities, this is a significant problem.

In 2013 in Toronto for example, 800 accessible parking permits were taken away from drivers because they were being misused, most commonly by someone else, like a family member.  A similar number were taken away in 2015, which started a designated parking enforcement unit to address the permit abuse problem for the city.  In February 2016, the City launched an “Abuse it and lose it” campaign to crack down on misuse.

In 2013, the Portland Bureau of Transportation surveyed the parking situation in the City’s downtown and Lloyd Center neighborhoods.  They found over 1,000 cars with accessible parking permits in metered spaces parking free as per the City’s policy.  Add the fact that many of those cars were parked in spaces for most of the day, and it’s easy to understand why Portland needed to make changes.  When Portland changed their parking practices to require everyone to pay for parking, their occurrences for accessible parking permits declined by 70% which supports the suggestion that a high number were misused for access to free parking.

If we look at statistics from 2014 for the State of California they had 2.6 million accessible parking permit holders which represents 9% of the State’s licensed drivers. UCLA students completed a study in Los Angeles that showed 44% of metered spaces were occupied by vehicles displaying fake parking permits.  Plus, those cars remained in their spaces approximately 70% longer than other drivers.  Considering they might see a loss of $100 in parking revenue for every fake permit the State would have forgone about $210 million a year assuming those drivers would have proper parking permits.

Campus Permit Fraud

With the significant improvements in digital imaging technology and do it yourself printing we have noticed an increase in permit fraud on University and College campuses.  Some of the parking permit frauds are easy to spot, while others are more sophisticated and sometimes appear to be very good replicas of issued permits.

In January 2016, Campus Enforcement and Patrol at Memorial University of Newfoundland reported that they saw an increase in fake permits.  From October to December they identified 70 fake permits across their lots.  Another example is Conestoga College who reported that they identified 34 forged permits which they anticipate cost them almost $9,000 in lost parking fees.  Grand Valley State University also saw an increase in permit faking from a total of 9 in 2015-16 to 18 identified in the first semester of the following year.  Most of the abuse was by students.


Fake or forged permits are sometimes easy for your best patrol teams to identify.  However, it’s unlikely they’re all found and removing one doesn’t really prevent the driver from repeating the process again. In a “market” for fraudulent or misused parking permits there may be 3rd parties who obtain or create these parking permits and sell them.  Plus, in many municipalities, the permits themselves are legitimate but are being misused by someone else, which can be difficult to identify by a patrol officers.

Different approaches can help reduce permit fraud including requiring frequent renewals for accessible permits, or a tough and controlled application process.  Alternatively, as in the case of Portland, eliminating the benefits that drive misuse like free parking, will remove the demand.

There are solutions available to analyse data to help identify things like accessible permits going to out of state addresses or issued to deceased people.  Those systems can also alert officials to medical providers who issue more permits than what would be considered “normal”.

Permitless with License Plate Recognition

The use of License Plate Recognition technology prevents parking permit fraud because your organization no longer requires a printed permit.  Parking access is associated with a vehicle license plate number so there is no physical permit to replicate or alter.  Cameras mounted on patrol vehicles or at a lot entrance identify vehicles who don’t have valid permits.  This could mean they have no permit, their permit access has expired, or they are parked in a zone outside of what they have paid for.  Organizations who have installed an ALPR system have seen an increase in permit sales and compliance.

LPR has other benefits too, including less reliance on patrol officers to peer in the window of hundreds of vehicles every day.  Drivers appreciate the easy online applications and removing the need of a permit in their vehicle.  Parking operations see savings in printing costs and administrative hours dedicated to permit issuance and management as well.