The Blue Badge parking scheme is a key lifeline that means millions of disabled people can park their vehicle close to their destination, either as a passenger or the driver. Despite the fact the scheme is designed for some of the most vulnerable people in society, the theft and fraudulent use of Blue Badges has risen dramatically in recent years, with criminals and gangs stealing the badges to sell on the black market or to use themselves to get free parking. In this article, Caroline Overton from Blue Badge Protector tells us how Blue Badge theft affects people with a disability, how widespread it is and what can be done to try and stop it.
As parking and congestion charges increase and disabled parking spaces become more limited, thefts of Blue Badges have soared. As Covid-19 emerged, The Department for Transport published figures showing that Blue Badge theft in England had risen by 45% in the previous year.
But is Blue Badge theft a problem in your area? It is considered that by using a Blue Badge in London you can save over £6000 per year on parking, which may go some way to explain the demand for Blue Badges on the black market which sell for in the region of £500. However, it’s not a London specific problem - in March 2021, 15 disability Blue Badges were stolen in a series of ‘smash and grab’ thefts from vehicles in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. Sadly, the issue of Blue Badge theft is nationwide.
4,246 Blue Badges were reported stolen in England alone in 2017/18 compared with 2,921 in the previous year (Department for Transport figures), all of which were issued by Councils who describe the increase as ‘alarming’. That’s a whopping sixfold increase since 2013. Councils throughout the country have been making some effort to tackle this extensive concern but many councils are still doing nothing or too little. Phil Talbot of disability charity Scope said: “This steep rise in thefts is shocking. The police and councils need to ensure they are serving their disabled residents by cracking down on this abuse.” However, figures from the Department for Transport showed 38% of Councils failed to make any prosecutions for misuse of Blue Badges in 2020.
Whilst you can usually get your Blue Badge replaced for free from your local Council within 8 weeks, Blue Badge theft can be distressing. Thieves will usually opt for ‘smash and grab’ tactics. They are opportunistic thieves looking for quick and convenient steals. Smashed windscreens, Police reporting, expensive vehicle repairs and increased insurance premiums all make Blue Badge theft very stressful, and if you are a victim of Blue Badge theft you should report it immediately to the Police, request a crime number and seek support from your local Council’s Blue Badge team.
To help beat Blue Badge fraud, if you think someone is illegally using a parking badge report your concerns to your local council who will investigate.
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So, what can you do to use your Blue Badge safely? How can you help prevent the theft of your Blue Badge and damage to your vehicle? Firstly, only leave your Blue Badge in your vehicle when it is in use, and when it is not make sure that the Blue Badge is hidden from view or preferably removed from your vehicle altogether.
When your Blue Badge is in use you could secure it to your steering wheel using a Blue Badge Protector. An excellent visual deterrent to would-be thieves, the Blue Badge Protector secures your Blue Badge in a metal case with a 5mm thick Perspex cover that can’t be smashed. Opportunistic thieves will be far less likely to try and steal your Blue Badge when using one of these, as an attempt to remove your badge from the vehicle would take too long and increase the chance of them getting caught.
Blue Badge Protectors have been developed over 15 years, they are approved by the Metropolitan Police, endorsed by Councils and come highly rated by their users.
They are available to order online at Halfords or directly via the company website at www.bluebadgeprotector.co.uk.
A Blue Badge can only be used in a parked vehicle by the person with a disability who applies for it. If somebody else is driving a vehicle they are permitted to use the Blue Badge as long as they are travelling with, picking up or dropping off the person the Blue Badge was issued for.