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Itís Time to Address Parking Enforcement Officer Safety

March, 2020

Chris Yigit

Parking enforcement officers (PEO) have a thankless job. As public servants, they’re tasked with helping to control parking and maintain the safety of our streets. But, unlike law enforcement, they have little authority and no clear defense. This can land them in some dangerous situations. The unfortunate reality is that, while most other municipal employees don’t face harassing or aggressive behavior, PEOs regularly find themselves on the receiving end of people’s rage.


Drivers who receive parking tickets frequently think of themselves as victims.


UNISON’s “Clamping down on violence” survey of over 800 traffic and parking agents found that a staggering 90 percent had experienced a violent incident in the previous year. The survey also showed that 20 percent experienced violence on a weekly basis, 30 percent had been in an incident that involved a vehicle, and close to 10 percent said that they had been attacked or threatened by someone with a weapon.


To make matters worse, when a PEO is assaulted or harassed, there is little, if anything, that can be done about it. Perpetrators are very difficult to identify. And, even if you can identify them, without any evidence, it’s just one person’s word against another. While some citations are issued by police officers, most are not. In these cases, the description of events provided by PEOs, who are not sworn officers, carries no weight in court at all.


Beyond typical risk factors, there’s also something about the way that people see PEOs and the job that they do that leads to increased harassment. Given the volume of incidents, we cannot explain the aggression away as simply the abnormal behavior of a few individuals. With numbers like those cited above, it’s clear that regular citizens are behaving in irregular ways. 


It seems one of the reasons that otherwise law-abiding people lash out is based on their individual perception. Drivers who receive parking tickets frequently think of themselves as victims. Most believe that they didn’t deserve the ticket, that the ticket itself is unjust, or that they have been unfairly targeted. When they act out, they think of their behavior not as instigating violence, but as retaliating for the aggressive act of having been ticketed.


These issues and potential solution will be addressed at PIE 2020. Join Genetec’s Chris Yigit at 8AM on Tuesday, March 24 and add your experiences to the discussion.



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