Keyboard warriors in firing line as attacks on council enforcement officers increase
Acts of violence, aggression and serious verbal abuse experienced by council enforcement officers while doing their jobs on the district's streets have increased by 77 per cent in the past year.
The increase comes after a number of puerile posts on social media in recent months, including one on the Canterbury Residents Group Facebook page which read: “Anyone who sees a ‘parking enforcement officer’…deck them in the face as hard as you can. There are many people who will pay for your lawyers if you are caught.”
The message ended with a clapping hands and a kiss emoji but was followed by a staunch defence of the enforcement team by a resident.
Enforcement officers patrol the city issuing fines to motorists that break the rules and people who throw litter. They also investigate flytipping and graffiti as well as dealing with the arrival of travellers in the district.
Canterbury City Council Chief Executive Colin Carmichael said: “Keyboard warriors and a small minority of those issued with tickets seem to think our enforcement officers are fair game and unleash a torrent of vile abuse.
"They are accused of being thieves, bullies, little Hitlers and failed police officers. And these are the slurs we can repeat. Then there are the threats of violence they face for simply doing their job.
"They deserve our full support and we will not hesitate to use the full force of the law against those whose actions mean our enforcement officers are constantly looking over their shoulders.
"Our officers are honest and hardworking people from all walks of life, including the Armed Forces, who are determined to improve the quality of life for all of us.
“Most people are grown-ups and will join me in thanking them for the difference they make while doing what can seem like a thankless task in all weathers, day in and day out.”
Serious incidents involving enforcement officers rose from 13 in 2017 to 23 in 2018 including:
- A driver trying to hit an enforcement officer with his moving vehicle while making threats in Iron Bar Lane, Canterbury
- An enforcement officer being squirted with a fluid initially feared to be acid after issuing a ticket to a driver parked in a bus lane in Reculver Road, Beltinge
- A motorist mounting the pavement to shout at an enforcement officer after receiving a ticket and nearly hitting a passerby in Whitstable High Street
- An enforcement officer’s handheld computer being snatched from their hand and thrown on the floor after issuing a parking ticket outside a chip shop in Central Parade, Herne Bay
- Four men surrounding two enforcement officers and threatening to smack them in the face in Stonebridge Road, Canterbury
- A man leaning on an enforcement officer from behind without speaking in Canterbury High Street then following them around the city centre
Head of Safer Neighbourhoods, Doug Rattray, said: “What these people fail to realise, when 99 per cent of people do, is our enforcement officers are tackling some of our most-complained about issues.
“They try to put a stop to littering, try to catch the vandals who daub graffiti and try to prosecute the flytippers who spoil our countryside.
“At the same time, parked cars that break the rules have a huge impact on other motorists by causing congestion, creating danger in and around the school gates, stopping buses and dustcarts getting through, and could pose a serious problem for the emergency services who are racing on blue lights to save lives.
“In the past year, our enforcement officers have given first aid at road accidents and other incidents, found lost children and vulnerable adults, helped rough sleepers, prevented suicides and jumped into a river to save someone from drowning.”
Published: 17 January 2019