'Secret squad' drive to foil Barking badge cheats
A CRACK undercover squad is planned to fight growing blue badge fraud in Barking and Dagenham. The racket is reaching epidemic proportions in London, with as many as one in five of the disabled parking permits forged. The capital is the biggest target for
A CRACK undercover squad is planned to fight growing blue badge fraud in Barking and Dagenham.
The racket is reaching epidemic proportions in London, with as many as one in five of the disabled parking permits forged.
The capital is the biggest target for the multi-million pound fiddle, with up to 20 per cent of around 9,000 badges cloned in Barking and Dagenham.
The borough is seen as a "soft touch", according to senior enforcement officer Tolu Olonisakin.
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The scam, costing more than �50million a year in revenue lost through stolen badges alone, is rife in Manchester and Liverpool, where it has been linked to organised crime, including stolen, untaxed and uninsured cars.
Rogue motorists using the permits either forged, borrowed from relatives or even taken from dead people could save up to �5,000 in parking exemptions, said Barking and Dagenham deputy parking manager Mr Olonisakin.
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The badges, copied with their serial numbers, can sell for up to �1,500, according to the Department for Transport.
But Mr Olonisakin said they could change hands for as little as �20 or �30 in East London pubs.
The Government is pouring �10million into setting up a database to catch motorists using the dodgy badges.
The move follows estimates showing one in 200 of the 2.3million badges in use was reported stolen in 2008.
But the database is not expected to be operational before 2015.
Barking and Dagenham Council last month unveiled a clampdown after a Barking Town Centre survey in December 2009 revealed 20 per cent of disabled permits were fake.
Mr Olonisakin hopes to set up a crack team of covert investigators to change what he says is the borough's "soft touch" image on badge fraud.
The squad of legally-trained officers would follow and record rogue motorists home to identify illegal parking patterns.
The unit could take at least six months to launch. "It's a lot of headache, so it needs to be set up properly," said Mr Olonisakin, 50.
He said similar teams of half a dozen investigators launched in the City, Tower Hamlets and Islington were turning their streets into no-go areas for the frausters.
A council spokesman said: "We have decided to clamp down on blue badge fraud, which is a growing problem.'' A recent check in Barking Town Centre revealed that 20 per cent of the permits had been illegally copied.