Reynoldsburg police officer Jim Rodgers has declared war on handicap parking violators.

Reynoldsburg police officer Jim Rodgers has declared war on handicap parking violators.

He has issued nearly 360 citations in just the past year. Because the misuse of handicap placards around town has become an "epidemic," Rodgers now wants to try to update the Ohio Revised Code and make the offense a more serious violation.

He recently submitted suggested updates to the Ohio Revised Code on handicap violations to state Sen. Jim Hughes (R-Clintonville) for review and consideration.

"Some situations I've encountered include those parking in a handicap zone and blocking elevator access to a van, which isn't addressed in the law at all," Rodgers said.

Another proposed change would make the use of fictitious placards a more serious offense, possibly increasing it to a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

"If you're going to punch out a new expiration date and hide the old date just to park in a handicap space - yeah, that's worth a higher offense," Rodgers said. "It's insulting to the people they're taking the space away from."

He called such actions a "crime of knowledge."

"The goal here is not to be writing tickets. The goal is to solve problems, especially for the people who are truly handicapped," he said.

Just in the past week, he said, he found more than two-dozen vehicles with improper placards parked in handicap zones. Either they were expired, were fictitious, or the person to whom they were registered had died, he said.

Handicap placards are assigned to individuals through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Each has identification numbers at the bottom.

"When we run the number at the bottom of the placards, they tell us who the owner of it is," Rodgers said. "A lot of the recent ones found showed the person was deceased, and I know that person isn't in the store shopping."

He said he often finds family members are using the placards to run errands and are parking illegally in reserved spaces.

"That is misuse. Those spaces are designed for people who are handicapped, not for family members who want to use them to go out shopping - and that is what were finding a lot of," Rodgers said.

"Each person is entitled to two placards for multiple vehicles, but again, they're assigned to the individual, not a vehicle," he said.

He said a small percentage of the placards he has found are legitimate, but the owners have let them expire. In those cases, Rodgers said, he issues warnings to have the placards renewed.

However, he said, the vast majority of citations are issued to drivers who are misusing the placards. Each of those carries a hefty $315 fine.

"I'm finding it's a viral situation, an epidemic, really it's an unclassified misdemeanor, but at $315, it's the steepest fine we have in Reynoldsburg for a parking violation," Rodgers said.

Reynoldsburg police Sgt. Ron Wright commended Rodgers' efforts in finding the violators and attempting to update the current law.

"He's put a tremendous amount of work in this and he's doing an outstanding job," Wright said. "It's a great service to the community because parking complaints in the city of Reynoldsburg are among our No. 1 complaints.

"Now he's taken it one step further, putting it in front of the Ohio Senate, so he's taken a very motivated approach to assist himself and other agencies to enforce this violation," Wright said.