With Black Friday sales now underway Tanya Winters, like many others, spent the day looking for a parking spot before she could start hunting bargains. It’s a trip that can become even more challenging if all the disabled parking spaces are gone.
“It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and we need all the minutes we can get. Cause we are busy just like you are,” said Winters.
To help crack down on illegal parking- Winters decided to join a citizen’s enforcement program.
"It is a four hour training to become a disabled parking volunteer with our program we do a lot of interactive training so we are looking at real vehicles, we are looking at real packages, real photographs, and really just practicing our judgement,” said Winters.
Winters and 75 others are special deputies through the Travis County precinct 5 Constable’s office.
"I really feel that people just really don’t understand and that’s our main goal of the program especially for the volunteers is to help educate the public on what actually needs to be done, and how to follow the law,” said Winters.
Each deputy volunteer is issued an identification badge. They can write tickets but cannot make arrests. They are also discouraged from getting into any confrontations.
While on patrol in south Austin, Friday, Winters didn't issue any citations. After she left a man, who was illegally parked, dashed out of a store. I reminded him that he could have gotten a $500 fine.
"I know I know. I thought I was going in really quickly because there was no parking,” said the man who went on to promise he would not park illegally again.
Last year more than 2000 citations were issued in Travis County for illegally parking in Spaces designated for disabled drivers. About 200 Placards were also confiscated for being misused."
"You know just respect the space is all we are asking for,” said Constable Carlos Lopez.
When on patrol, Constable Lopez says he looks for placards that may have been purchased on the black market. Several social media sites offer used placards for sale -- as of right now- doing that is not illegal.
"It is very difficult catching people that are doing it, the thing is you have to catch these people using it, as opposed to selling it, and buying it, but we are going to go the legislature and change it where it becomes illegal to sell or purchase those placards,” said Lopez.
Even if that loophole is closed, Tanya Winters said she and the other volunteers will continue their patrols.
"So I think it’s about education, it’s about courtesy and I think it’s about being respectful."