Stolen blue badges taken by thieves from cars that belong to elderly and disabled people are changing hands for over £1,000 a London council has warned.
Lambeth Council says that the market in fake blue badges is also growing, with forgeries becoming increasingly sophisticated, as people attempt to cheat the system in order to get a parking space.
The borough says it has evidence that an increasing number of forged blue badges are in circulation, something that is replicated across London.
It has stepped up its efforts to combat the problem because it says that blue badge fraud stops people with mobility problems being able to park near vital services. Lambeth is leading the way across the country in addressing the problem of blue badge fraud, and has prosecuted more than 350 people for fraud offences.
Raj Mistry, Head of Parking for Lambeth Council, said: “The blue badge system operates for a reason, and that’s to make it easier for people with a disability to have access to shops and vital services. Some people may think it’s a victimless crime to use a blue badge that belongs to someone else, or even buy a fake one to save money on parking, but it’s not, because it’s older and vulnerable people who suffer when the blue badge system is abused.
“The forgeries are becoming more sophisticated and they can change hands for around £1,000 so this is big business, but we are determined to tackle it head on.”
Councillor Lorna Campbell, Lambeth Council’s Environment Cabinet member elect, said; “Our fraud team does a vital job in protecting the integrity of the blue badge scheme, making sure older and disabled residents can park in the spaces reserved for them.
“We have had considerable success in prosecuting people who commit this type of fraud, and we want to send a message to people who may be tempted to commit an offence that this is not acceptable, and if you are caught you will receive a criminal record, could face a heavy fine, a prison sentence or be disqualified from driving.”
Lambeth’s policy is to identify, prosecute and publicise all those who are guilty of cheating the system. A fraud team works closely with the borough’s parking civil enforcement officers, who are the ‘eyes and ears’ on the street and report suspicious use of badges, and the council also encourages residents to come forward to report cases of fraud taking place.
Mr Mistry said he now wanted to work together with other councils across London on a joint approach to tackling blue badge fraud with other members of a group of London parking authorities called Partners in Parking.
Lambeth Council operates a ‘White Badge’ scheme to combat the problem of thieves breaking into disabled people’s cars and stealing their blue badge. The white badge allows holders to park in disabled bays overnight without having to display their blue badge. White badges show the vehicle registration number which means they are no use to anyone else and therefore are less likely to be targeted by thieves.
Lambeth parking fraud investigations team has been rewarded for its work cracking down on the problem by being named ‘Enforcement Team of the Year’ at the British Parking Awards this year.