Increase of blue badge thefts and numbers caught abusing disability scheme
Blue badge theft has trebled in three years, and the number of people caught abusing the scheme has risen nearly threefold in five years, council chiefs have warned.
The badges enable disabled people to park for free in pay and display bays and for up to three hours on yellow lines, while in London they exempt holders from having to pay the congestion charge.
Analysis of Department for Transport data by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, said there were 2,056 instances of blue badge theft in England in 2015 - a 17% increase on the 1,756 instances recorded in 2014.
The number of recorded blue badge thefts stood at 656 in 2013.
The LGA said the increase has been accompanied by a rise in the number of people prosecuted by councils for using stolen or lost badges to park for free dishonestly.
The number of people caught abusing the scheme has almost trebled in five years with 985 successful council prosecutions in 2015 compared with 330 in 2010.
But the LGA is calling on people to help councils to further crack down on the problem.
Councillor Martin Tett, the LGA's transport spokesman, said: "The theft of blue badges is clearly a crime on the rise and it is alarming that incidents have trebled in just three years.
"Illegally using a blue badge is not a victimless crime. For disabled people, blue badges are a vital lifeline that helps them get out and about to visit shops or family and friends.
"Callous thieves and unscrupulous fraudsters using them illegally are robbing disabled people of this independence.
Mr Tett said councils "come down hard" on motororists who use stolen blue badges.
"It is important to catch these criminals in the act," he said.
"To help councils win the fight against blue badge fraud, residents must keep tipping us off about people they suspect are illegally using a badge, bearing in mind people's need for a badge might not always be obvious."
Blue badges are only allowed to be used when the holder of the badge is driving the vehicle or is a passenger.
Misuse of a blue badge is a criminal offence.