Merton Council is calling on the public to show respect towards public sector workers following incidents its own front line officers have suffered during 2010.
Most recent statistics show a rise in the number of assaults on civil enforcement officers London wide. A London Councils survey shows up to three parking attendants a day in London are assaulted. This includes being run over, shot at, or attacked by gangs with baseball bats.
On a local level, incidents involving violence, aggression and verbal abuse against council staff have remained consistently and unacceptably high.
Merton’s records show 26 reported incidents of abuse endured by officers in front line enforcement and waste operations roles between 1 October 2009 and 30 September 2010.
In Merton earlier this month police arrested a man for physically assaulting one of the borough’s civil enforcement officers. He has now been cautioned, and therefore has a criminal record. Whilst in the course of carrying out his duties and issuing a parking ticket to a driver who had illegally parked, the officer was attacked by the driver of the offending vehicle and suffered a cut to his nose.
Commenting on this incident, the officer said: “All we are trying to do is our job. The people who are committing an offence are in the wrong, and they still feel at liberty to be violent towards us.”
In November one of the council’s recycling collectors was the victim of a hit and run incident, when he was left lying in the road with his leg broken in two places following a collision with another car.
Between July and September this year alone, there have been seven other reported incidents of physical abuse towards civil enforcement officers as they were going about their duty. Statistics also reveal that such attacks are not restricted to civil enforcement officers but to all council staff and have included incidents of both verbal and physical aggression.
Leader of Merton Council Councillor Stephen Alambritis said: “The work our civil enforcement officers carry out is vital for residents’ quality of life. They enforce parking restrictions to prevent the illegal parking of vehicles so that roads are safer and those who have paid for their parking permit aren’t at a disadvantage. It is appalling that some members of the public feel they can act in this way, with no self-control or respect for others. There is never any excuse to be violent towards public sector workers like this. It does seem that unbalanced high profile media stories can have an impact on the reaction of some members of the public towards council staff carrying out their enforcement duties.
“If people disagree with any decision, there are proper and fair appeal channels to follow. Our civil enforcement officers, as well as all other Council staff, should be able to go about their legitimate work without fear of being attacked. It is important that staff are never made to feel threatened and we will not tolerate aggression or verbal abuse toward our staff under any circumstances. If such incidents occur, we will apply a zero tolerance policy and not hesitate to take the appropriate action against members of the public who behave in this way.”
Superintendent David Paterson of the Metropolitan Police said: “Violent and aggressive behaviour towards frontline public sector employees is totally unacceptable. Police will always fully investigate such allegations, with offenders likely to be criminally prosecuted.”
Notes to editors
London Councils’ 2004 Survey of Londoners found that 67% of Londoners thought that action against illegal parking in London should remain the same or get stronger. Seventy-five percent said the same or more action should be taken against people illegally using bus lanes.
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