Spike in abuse of city's parking rangers

10 Nov 2017

Newcastle City Council Interim CEO Jeremy Bath has called for more respect to be shown to the city's parking officers and rangers after a spate of physical and verbal attacks by the general public.

In the past two years there have been more than 40 incidents where parking officers were physically intimidated and verbally abused.

Many of these incidents involved high levels of aggression with a number referred to the police for investigation.

In one incident, a female parking officer narrowly escaped being run down by a car that swerved deliberately at her while she was on a pedestrian crossing.

In another recent attack, a person told two parking officers he was going to cut their throats, while another female officer was verbally abused and stalked by a serial offender from Wharf Road to Merewether Baths.

Other parking officers have been threatened with screwdrivers or have had eggs thrown at them.

"This kind of behaviour is cowardly and completely unacceptable," Council Interim CEO Jeremy Bath said. "Our staff are simply doing their jobs.

"Parking officers serve an important function for our city. As well as keeping children safe around schools, they ensure parking spaces are turned over to allow the public fair access to businesses, and they help ensure traffic safety for all road users.

"I understand that getting a parking ticket is a frustrating experience - I've received a few myself. But blaming, let alone assaulting, a parking officer merely doing his or her job enforcing our parking regulations cannot be allowed to occur under any circumstances. Council will not hesitate to refer these attacks on to police."

In the past two years, there have been nine attacks on our officers that have resulted in injury. They included a man claiming bikie links who threatened and abused the same female officer three times early in 2016.

Two rangers were recently assaulted while investigating reports of a dog attack. One pet owner swerved his car, narrowly missing a ranger after he had come to investigate the man's dog over an alleged attack, while another man assaulted and stalked a ranger in Centennial Park after he was told his dog needed to remain on a leash.

Mr Bath said he was concerned by the nature of the attacks on personnel even as the city adopted a more conciliatory approach to parking enforcement.

"I understand finding a car park can sometimes be a stressful experience, but nothing excuses physical or verbal violence towards another person," he said.

"If you break the rules and get caught or your dog is off a leash or involved in an attack, don't take it out on a parking officer or Council ranger.

"Being a parking officer or ranger is a thankless task that frankly is one of the toughest jobs in the city."

NCC parking officers issued 27,954 parking fines in the 2013/14 financial year, 25,355 in 14/15 22,206 in 15/16 and 27,827 in 16/17.

There has been no increase in the number of parking officers during this time, indicating a worrying trend of people choosing to flout parking rules.

Officers will continue to issue fines to drivers who ignore road rules, with a focus on balancing enforcement with encouragement to do the right thing.

Newcastle City Council officers perform a range of community services for which they receive little recognition. Following are examples:

* An NCC parking officer saved the day for a young mother who had accidentally dropped a family photo album down a grated drain. The photo album was retrieved after the officer called in a street cleaner with a handled claw.

* An NCC parking officer picked up a blind man's guide dog in a Council vehicle and returned it after it fled its owner's yard and ended up at a local vet.

* An NCC parking officer helped perform CPR on a man who had a heart attack at the parking station on the mall.

* An NCC parking officer helped a young woman left frantic after hours waiting with two small children at a government service centre by reading to the elder child as the mother fed the baby.

* NCC parking officers regularly assist people injured in motor vehicle accidents.

* NCC parking officers have helped people experiencing homelessness, the elderly and people from non-English speaking backgrounds find Government service buildings.

* NCC parking officers supported a young girl hit by a car in King Street until an ambulance arrived.

* An NCC parking officer cared for an elderly man bleeding heavily after a fall by calling an ambulance and the stricken man's wife before following up to see how he was faring two days later.

* An NCC parking officer helped an elderly woman find a sports field where her grandson was playing football after her GPS device had malfunctioned.

* An NCC parking officer applied first aid to an elderly gentleman who had fallen from his disability scooter and then called an ambulance after calming him down.

* An NCC parking officer cared for a young lady that had been assaulted making sure she received appropriate care.

* An NCC parking officer assisted an elderly gentleman who had been hit by a cyclist.

* NCC parking officers tended to an injured dog that had been hit by a car until it could be safely collected and taken to a vet.