Abuse of Devon’s traffic wardens is ‘unacceptable’

Friday 25th March 2022 4:54 pm
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Traffic warden generic (Image: Caspar Rae / Unsplash) ()

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Devon traffic wardens are experiencing ‘unacceptable’ verbal abuse from the public, councillors have been told.

A report to a county council scrutiny meeting this week revealed 77 reported incidents in the past three years, with the vast majority relating to verbal abuse.

Eleven have been more serious, requiring ‘escalation to the police’, it stated, adding that ‘the majority of these have occurred in the past 12 months’.

The council thought this was likely because of staff becoming more confident in the police response and therefore being ‘empowered to escalate,’ but also because of experiences with the public becoming ‘more challenging as we have moved through the pandemic period’.

Highways chief Councillor Stuart Hughes (Conservative, Sidmouth) told the meeting: ‘We continue to work to ensure our staff remain safe and supported at a time when frontline staff are exposed to more verbal abuse and aggression from the public than before.

‘This is not acceptable. Our team is fully supported by managers and technology, including body worn video [BMV], and we are clear that abuse of staff is unacceptable, and we will escalate to the police if needs be.’

The report added: ‘All (civil enforcement officers) are actively encouraged to use the BWV when they feel something may escalate or they feel the need to record a conversation.

‘They will always let the individual member of public know that they are recording and this often de-escalates the situation.

‘Current BWVs have a front-facing screen so the individual can see themselves on the camera allowing for immediate reflection on their behaviour.’

The meeting on Thursday also heard how the council was struggling to recruit traffic wardens. There are almost 20 full-time equivalent parking enforcement vacancies, a shortfall of over 40 per cent.

“However … the team are motivated and continue to deliver a good service with the available resources. Overtime allows existing staff to provide additional hours reducing the shortfall,’ the report went on to say.

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