KHOU 11 News is standing for Houston, protecting drivers with disabilities. We discovered able-bodied people taking up handing parking spots.

A pair of vehicles pulled into a pair of handicapped parking spaces on Sabine next to Buffalo Bayou. We watched as the couple left the cars for a six mile walk. The handicapped placards were identical, and the registered vehicle owner’s driver’s license number did not match the placard.

When we politely asked the drivers if the placards were theirs, the man replied, “Actually, it’s my mom’s car. That’s why I borrowed it.”

When we explained that using his mother’s placard without her in the car is illegal, he said, “It is what it is, right?"

Park Houston has 33 full-time compliance officers issued parking citations and 400 trained volunteers who are only allowed to issue handicapped parking tickets. From Jan. 1, 2015 through Jan. 1, 2017, they issued 16,814 handicapped parking related citations.

“You’re taking a space from someone that truly needs that space,” said Park Houston Assistant Director Maria Irshad.

Roger Williamson is a Parking Management volunteer. Multiple times per week, he combs the area surrounding his home searching for handicapped parking violations.

“This area is very bad about violators,” Williamson said.

In situations like the one we discovered at Buffalo Bayou, Park Houston and its volunteers are powerless.

“Fraudulent use can only be issued by a police officer,” Irshad said.

There are more than 82,000 permanently disabled placards in Harris County alone. It’s nearly impossible to guess how many parking cheaters are stealing spots from people who truly need them.

You probably noticed we covered people’s faces in the video version of our story. We did this because we want to highlight the problem; we are not trying to embarrass anyone.

However, there are steps you can take to help curb the problem. Irshad says if you spot a habitual offender, call 311.

Keep your complaint number and check in to see if the city has handled the problem. Also, you can become a Park Houston volunteer. Training only takes four hours, and you can join the team helping to keep handicapped parking available for people who need it.