People are stealing handicapped-accessible parking placards and selling them on the black market, dramatically changing people's everyday lives.
Janney Prophet of Charles County, Maryland, got a placard because of her bad knees.
“I never know when they’re going to go out, so I have to park as close to my destination as possible,” she said.
But her placard was stolen.
“It was in the window,” she said. “I come back, it’s gone.”
Prophet is one of several victims in a small apartment community to have their placards stolen.
It’s also happening near the Smallwood Village shopping area, police said. Surveillance video shows someone on a bike who is believed to be responsible for multiple thefts.
“They’re really creating havoc for a lot of people,” Charles County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Diane Richardson said.
The crime isn’t new, but they are becoming more frequent.
“We really did get hit hard in October,” Richardson said. “At least 20 if not more that were reported to us.”
The payoff can be significant for the thieves.
“Sadly, there is a black market for this,” Richardson said. “There are people who are willing to pay $50 to $100, $200, and then they use those placards mostly to park in cities.”
Most of the thefts took place overnight and involved placards hanging from rearview mirrors or placed on the dashboard. Vehicles parked on streets and driveways were targeted, as well as cars parked in handicapped-accessible spaces. Police advised the placards be kept out of view when not parking in those spaces.
Not wanting to fall victim a second time, Prophet handicapped-accessible parking plates instead, but she feels for her neighbors because she knows how this crime can dramatically change someone’s everyday life.
“You know, it’s people that actually need those things and then to make a profit on somebody else’s disability, that’s just horrendous,” she said.
Detectives believe the cases near Smallwood Village are related and more than one suspect could be responsible.
Charles County Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest or indictment.