Beachgoers surfing Ebay and Craigslist last summer may have spotted advertisements for fraudulent fun in the sun in the form of counterfeit Duxbury Beach permits. According to Duxbury Harbormaster Don Beers, visitors from as far away as Boston, New Hampshire, New York and Chicago were found with forged permits.
“They were excellent counterfeits,” said Beers. “(The harbormaster staff) had a trained eye to check that the registration number of the car corresponded with the permit. That was the problem, they were perfect. They were better than ours.” It’s unclear how many participated in defrauding the town, but the techniques used to reproduce the permits – photocopiers and computers – made it easy and widespread. “I had 9-10 people patrolling the beach,” said Beers. “It certainly kept us busy. It was by far the busiest summer on Duxbury Beach.”
Counterfeit permits were only part of the problem. A larger issue for enforcement was permits transferred from one car to another. While some transferred permits were sold online, more often friends and families swapped them between each other’s vehicles in violation of the town’s purchasing contract which states tickets are non-transferable. In difficult economic times, it’s easy to understand why some would run the risk. The cost of a resident permit is $150, a non-resident, $275, and for access to the parking lot only, $70. According to Beers, the Town of Duxbury sells approximately 13,000 permits each year, generating an annual revenue of $1.4 million. During the peak season, there are upwards of 500 vehicles each night on the beach. The Town of Duxbury doesn’t own the land in question, but leases it from the privately-held Duxbury Beach Reservation and manages all visitors.
Doreen Bossi, a Duxbury resident, said she knew about the abuse.
“I heard a rumor,” said Bossi. “It’s aggravating because there are often no parking spots. Now it’s so popular because of the SUVs.”
Duxbury Police Lt. Lewis Chubb said some of those who transferred legitimate permits or even the one woman who was moving and attempted to sell hers on Craigslist – the sale of which isn’t illegal – were simply ignorant of the non-transferable regulation. Two who were discovered using forged permits were charged with trespassing, pled guilty and paid a fine.
“It was big in the sense that it was more than a couple,” said Chubb, “but we identified only six (counterfeit permits) that were from the same place. We did actually have a number of really well-made forgeries though we weren’t able to identify the manufacturer.”
Counterfeit stickers won’t be a problem next summer. Beers, Chubb, Town Treasurer Tom Connelly and Town Manager Richard MacDonald all met to design a new permit that is both difficult to reproduce and impossible to transfer between vehicles.
“We’re trying to prevent any forgeries by coming up with a design that will take care of itself,” said Connelly. “It self-destructs when it’s peeled off.”
Though there were some who didn’t regard it as much of an issue, Chubb and other town officials did.
“A number of people actually said ‘what’s the big deal,’ but at $250 apiece that’s a lot of money the town is losing,” said Chubb.
Beers agreed, noting those who lawfully abided by the rules were taking it on the chin. And, he said, there’s a larger issue at stake.
“When someone has a counterfeit permit, you don’t want them out there because they don’t belong out there,” said Beers. “I don’t want to invite a criminal to be your neighbor on the beach.”