The number of disabled parking badges being stolen has more than doubled with thieves breaking into cars and retirement homes for the vouchers worth up to £6,000 a year, councils have warned.
Nearly 3m people, who can be drivers or passengers, have been issued with Blue Badges because they find it difficult to walk.
The scheme, which applies across the UK, enables them to park for free in pay-and-display bays and on double yellow lines. In London, where theft levels were particularly high, holders are exempt from the Congestion Charge, saving them up to £2,500 annually.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said numbers of thefts of Blue Badges had soared from 656 in 2013 to 1,756 last year, with criminals selling them on the black market or using them for free parking.
Someone who parks in a city centre throughout the week could save more than £6,000 over 12 months.
The LGA said councils had prosecuted 565 people last year for fraudulent use of stolen or lost badges. They included a Watford man who admitted using his grandmother’s Blue Badge for four months after she died.
Five drivers received a combined bill of nearly £2,000 in fines and costs following prosecution by Sutton Council in south London for fraudulent use of the badges.
Coun Peter Box, the LGA’s transport spokesman, said: “Illegally using a Blue Badge is not a victimless crime. For disabled people, Blue Badges are absolutely essential in order to get out and about to visit shops or family and friends.
“Callous Blue Badge thieves and unscrupulous fraudsters using them illegally are robbing disabled people of this independence. It is staggering how low some people are stooping simply to con a few hours of free parking and alarming to see thefts rising so significantly.
“Despite limited resources, councils will continue trying to crackdown on this crime and will not hesitate to prosecute drivers trying to abuse the system.”
Some local authorities have set up enforcement teams to target Blue Badge fraud.
Under the Road Traffic Act, misuse of a Blue Badge is a criminal offence carrying a maximum fine of £1,000.
Coun Box added: “It is important to catch these criminals in the act. To win the fight against Blue Badge fraud, residents must keep tipping councils off about people they suspect are illegally using a badge.”Reuse content