• Sat
  • Aug 2, 2014
  • Updated: 10:10am

Public enemy No 1

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2006, 12:00am

At last, here was concrete proof - if it were needed - that all traffic wardens are the offspring of jackals. Caught by a video camera, a pack of wardens is shown moving a car physically onto a yellow line, where they can slap a ticket on its windscreen. Another clip shows up to six wardens rolling a car onto its side, then its roof, and so forth, until it ends up on the other side of the road - where there are yellow lines. The car is then ticketed.


It seems like proof positive of what many motorists knew all along: that they were in the right, the wardens in the wrong.


If this sounds unbelievable, you're right. It's a phoney, 'viral' video on a website devoted to helping motorists challenge unfair tickets. After all, no traffic wardens could possibly be that bad. Or could they?


The London public seems to think so. Widely detested by motorists, wardens were recently voted London's most despised profession - pushing lawyers and journalist, for once, into second and third places.


Tales are legion of wardens, most of whom are employed on a commission basis, issuing hefty-priced tickets for minor transgressions: having one wheel on a curb or extending 7cm out of the parking bay. In one infamous case, a ticket was issued two seconds after a meter expired.


Traffic wardens have always been despised. But, of late, there are more of them around to detest. Their numbers have grown exponentially, as councils figure out the revenue-earning potential of ever-decreasing parking spaces and ever-steeper fines.


Councils are virtually minting money, especially in inner London boroughs where space is at a premium. In parts of Camden, north London, the council charges GBP8 ($114) for 30 minutes of meter parking. Not paying, or overstaying, is rewarded - often within seconds - with a ticket and then a clamp, which can cost GBP200 to release.


One motorist was not even that lucky. Ticketed, then clamped, then towed away, his 4x4 was then crushed, because the owner missed the 15-day deadline to pay the fine. The poor guy had only had it a week.


Although this particular man is taking the local authority to court, few motorists exact revenge on the council itself.


They prefer, instead, to attack its uniformed messenger. Wardens now roam in packs for self-protection, but many are still attacked. One was recently stabbed by an irate motorist.


Anxious to protect their revenue collectors, some councils are issuing wardens with knife-proof flak jackets. Whether this will prevent them from being run over, however, still remains to be seen.


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