Parking enforcement officer
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the English-speaking world and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (April 2011)|
A parking enforcement officer or parking attendant or traffic warden and sometimes parking inspector is a member of a traffic control department or agency who issues tickets for parking violations. Where parking meters are used, they may be known as a meter attendant or a traffic warden (British English). The term meter maid is defined by the Random House Dictionary as "a female member of a police or traffic department responsible for issuing tickets for parking violations," and lists the term as an Americanism originating between 1955 and 1960. The term is sometimes used derogatorily, for both female and male attendants. The term meter Nazi is pejorative.
Their use is controversial and they are often perceived as being overzealous. In the UK, this is likely due to high pressure management focused around delivering a certain number of tickets per day leading to allegations of corruption and illegality. This brings accusations that their real purpose is to raise revenue for the local authority rather than keep the traffic moving. Those who receive fines argue that the "punishment does not fit the crime", pointing to the size of fines levied for minor parking violations in comparison with fines generally issued for more serious motoring offences or other offences such as shoplifting. Public dislike of parking attendants in the UK is such that they have been issued stab-proof vests and cotton swabs to take DNA samples when members of the public spit on them, for later prosecution.
On the 9th of December, 2007, the mayor of Stockholm, Mikael Söderlund, announced that the tasks of the parking enforcement officers will be broadened to include fining graffiti vandals and litterers. Trade union representatives say they are not prepared to take on new tasks, already stretched by metering cars, and that they fear the risk of violence. Those authorities in England that invested in vehicles with onboard computer and camera equipment have also begun policing bus lanes. With the combination of the role of parking attendants in some (not all) areas of Great Britain into that of Civil Enforcement Officers, many now routinely issue fixed penalties for such offences as littering, public drinking, anti-social behaviour and noise violations in addition to dealing with nuisance parking offences which previously escaped the attention of parking attendants as they contravened legislation other than the Road Traffic Act 1991.
The Surfers Paradise Meter Maids were introduced to the world in 1965 by local businessman Bernie Elsey to provide a positive spin on parking regulations. Instead of issuing tickets for expired parking, the Meter Maids dispensed coins into the meter and left a calling card under the windscreen wiper of the vehicle.
Initially introduced as a countermeasure against the unpopularity of parking meters installed the previous year, the Maids are known for their gold bikini outfits and (now defunct) tiaras.
Ticket-issuing parking inspectors continue to patrol streets to enforce parking regulations, and the Gold Coast City Council is installing voucher-dispensing parking machines in place of traditional parking meters, leaving 'meter maids' unable to top up the meter to protect vehicles from being fined by parking inspectors.
In Canada, parking enforcement duties are frequently handled under the umbrella of bylaw enforcement by Bylaw Enforcement Officers. No jurisdictions remain where persons employed for the purpose of enforcing traffic bylaws are referred to as "Meter Maids" and increasingly fewer offices of "Parking Enforcement Officer" exist. Most officials once employed as PEOs are now utilized to perform a variety of bylaw enforcement duties, often including Animal Control or the enforcement of other bylaws. The position is increasingly upgraded to that of the more professional position of Bylaw Enforcement Officer.
The cities of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver still employ officials with the title of Parking Enforcement Officer. In the case of Montreal and Toronto, PEOs are a sub-division of their respective police force : the Montreal SPVM (where they are nicknamed "Green Onions" due to their formerly green uniforms) and the Toronto Police Service (where they have been nicknamed the 'Blue Hornet' because of the blue uniform stripe, which is red on police officers' uniforms). In Vancouver's case, PEOs are employees of the municipal government, not affiliated with the Vancouver Police Department.
Canadian Parking Enforcement Officers are de facto Peace Officers while in the performance of their duties and inasmuch as that designation is required for the performance of their duties, even if they are not sworn officers or constables. Case law has upheld this legal interpretation. See Bylaw Enforcement Officer for case-law excerpts. This means that assault on a Canadian Parking Enforcement Officer or Bylaw Officer conducting traffic bylaw enforcement is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada as Assault on a Peace Officer and carries higher penalties than standard assault.
In the Republic of Ireland, parking enforcement officer are employed by councils to enforce laws relating to the parking and stopping of motor vehicles. They were introduced by the Local Authorities (Traffic Wardens) Act 1975. Under the Road Traffic Acts, traffic wardens are empowered to issue on the spot parking tickets and fines for non-display for a tax disk. It is an offence to refuse to provide your name and address when demanded to do so by a traffic warden.
In the United Kingdom, the enforcement of laws dealing with the parking of motor vehicles can be the responsibility of one or more of the following persons :-
Civil enforcement officers (England, Wales, Scotland), including those previously known as parking attendants (whose duties might still be limited to parking contraventions or might now be extended to other road traffic contraventions where a local authority has chosen to do so), are employed by local authorities or a contractor providing their services to a local authority. Since the advent of decriminalised parking enforcement, they have largely replaced traffic wardens as the primary enforcers of parking regulations. They have the power to issue penalty charge notices (PCNs) for parking contraventions dealt with by ss.63-79 Road Traffic Act 1991; in areas where their duties have been extended beyond that of a parking attendant they can can also issue PCNs for parking offences coming under other legislation such as e.g. parking a vehicle entirely on a footway or the parking of a detached vehicle trailer or skip.
Traffic attendants (Northern Ireland) issue parking offence penalty charge notices (i.e. a civil penalty not a criminal penalty) for the Roads Service using powers under the Traffic Management (Northern Ireland) Order 2005.
Traffic wardens are employees of police forces and are primarily responsible for controlling traffic in general using powers available to authorised persons defined in the Road Traffic Act 1988. Their usage for parking enforcement is less common since the advent of decriminalised parking enforcement which in many areas transferred the enforcement of offences concerning simple parking in controlled areas to local authorities; other parking offences such as any involving penalty points and/or those not involving the 1991 Act (or equivalent in Northern Ireland) remain enforceable by traffic wardens.
Traffic officers of the Highways Agency (England and Wales) operate under the Traffic Management Act 2004 and have various powers to deal with vehicles on a "relevant road" (chiefly motorways and trunk roads) which on other roads would be dealt with as parking offences by police or local authorities; this includes the power to remove such vehicles.
It is to be noted that the power to deal with a parking offence on a highway generally remains available to a police constable.
In popular culture
- Standing by a parking meter, when I caught a glimpse of Rita
- Filling in a ticket in her little white book.
- In a cap, she looked much older,
- And the bag across her shoulder
- Made her look a little like a military man.
- "Occupation Information - Parking Inspector". myfuture. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
- United States Department of Labor Dictionary of Occupational Titles, classification number 375.587-010
-  Entry for "meter maid" Random House Dictionary, 2011.
- "UK | Magazine | Confessions of a parking attendant". BBC News. 2005-06-01. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
- Anders Sundström (2007-12-09). "P-vakter blir klotterjägare" (in Swedish). DN.se. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
- "Canadian Corps of Commissionaires "Enforcement Services"". Commissionaires.ca. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
- s.76 Traffic Management Act 2004