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Friday, March 04, 2005

 

Infamy at last! They’ve all got it in for us!

‘Dispatches’, on UK’s terrestrial Channel4 last night (Thursday 3rd March 2005) screened a documentary about everyone’s favourite(?) hate objects – Yup, that’s us all right –Traffic Wardens. Using hidden cameras the journo’s got an inside track on the seamier side of life on this side of the parking tracks.

What we saw was the PA’s in the London borough of Southwark, run by APCOA, a private company and the congestion charge company run by Capita, which is renowned in IT and educational services circles as a farce run by a pack of jokers. Our team reckon we’re a cut above those guys. Sure we’re out to nick the bad guys, but we’ll do it by the book, because if we don’t the ticket gets cancelled. You get a lot of cancelled tickets; you get bollocked. Mind you, if you don’t pull your weight it’s just as bad, but there is no quota, even if our management are obsessed with statistics and spreadsheets. On the streets the situation is a lot more complex than mere figures can convey.

What was portrayed differed with my experience. The abuse – yeah we get that by the bucketload. Water off a Ducks back. Threats – cool, you want to make those threats good and you’ll wind up in court. We just log ‘em with the real Police and get on with the job. That’s why we’ve got radio’s and mobiles. Trouble spots? Of course. If you’ve got more than ten contraventions at once you shout for reinforcements and get the hell on with it. However, the reinforced stereotypes of ‘being on commission’ and ‘Ticket quota’s’ are all tired old news. What the Journo’s forgot to do is check out the ‘Salisbury model’ Traffic Wardens. Or perchance those are the districts that don’t just hire anyone without going through the hoops of CRB, proper reference checks and all the other bits and pieces you need to get hired by a local authority nowadays? Unlike certain areas of London and Manchester.

In our game we’re familiar with the private sector companies like APCOA & CPS. These are the people who, in sales meetings wow senior management with how they could ‘improve’ ticket revenue. What these companies don’t tell you is that you’ll have a huge amount of pissed off residents, high staff turnover & a public relations nightmare. It’s tough enough out there without portraying us all as a bunch of cowboys. We do have some pride.

All in all, the broadcast was a lovely piece of anti-traffic warden propaganda, and one of the reasons four of us put a request in for body armour this morning. Thanks for nothing Channel 4.

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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