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Illinois checks on drivers using parking placards

CHICAGO (AP) — Motorists tempted to illegally park in shopping mall spots reserved for the disabled will be the target of Illinois Secretary of State police this holiday season.

The agency's seventh-annual disability parking sting started Friday at shopping malls statewide and will continue through the Christmas season. Last year the agency issued 31 citations over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend alone and 187 citations through the season. Authorities confiscated more than 100 illegally used placards.

"We're out to send a message to ask people to leave the accessible spots for people with disabilities," said Bill Bogdan, disability liaison for the Illinois Secretary of State's office.

Police will be stationed at shopping malls in the Chicago area and cities like Carbondale, Champaign, Marion, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield. Their goal is to make sure motorists are legally parking in spots reserved for the disabled.

Used properly, the person who received the placard must be in the vehicle and have gotten in and out of the vehicle when it was parked.

There's a $500 fine for illegally using a placard or disability license plates. Offenders can also have their licenses suspended. Fines for wrongly parking in a disability space can go up to $350.

"We ask people to respect the space," Bogdan said. "Don't abuse the program."

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