Parking- A New Approach
Parking- it’s a perennial concern in many of the villages of South Cambs. My difficulty as Area Commander is how to balance the desire from local communities to see parking enforcement with tackling the policing priorities: investigating serious crime, preventing crime and making sure that we get to the emergency calls.
It’s a little known fact that we don’t have traffic wardens anymore (and never will again). Our PCSOs have ‘inherited’ parking enforcement powers but they are *not* traffic wardens: they have so many important duties and responsibilities that they just can’t dedicated as much time to parking enforcement as some people would like. Most police officers themselves are far too busy to be able to spend much time issuing parking tickets.
I don’t like to make excuses- but in South Cambs we’ll record between one – two dozen crimes that need to be investigated every single day. We record about 2000 incidents a month and when officers aren’t either investigating crime or answering calls for service they have 105 parishes and a whopping 4500 streets to patrol: they can only do so much. When we do have some time I like officers to be out with the speed gun- speeding is a major cause of accidents and death on the roads and I believe that this has to take priority over parking.
Parking itself isn’t always as straightforward as people imagine. Unlike speeding which is an absolute offence, the laws on parking are a bit more complex. Double yellow lines are straight forward enough but some people can still legitimately park on double yellow lines. Parking on a pavement is annoying but there is not a specific offence to be parked on the pavement or verge (the offence is to *drive* on the pavement, not to be parked on it). Police do have general powers to deal with vehicles that are left in a dangerous position but most of the reports we receive are of inconsiderate or illegal parking- not dangerous parking.
Now, this isn’t really an issue in most towns and cities- where parking has been de-criminalised. In Cambridge City for example, the police do not play a part in parking enforcement: that’s all left to civilian parking enforcement officers. However in one or two places- South Cambs being one- parking has not yet been de-criminalised and so remains the responsibility of the police.
So why not decriminalise? Well, even a bare-bones enforcement operation would cost about £150’000. It is very unlikely that the money would be recovered in penalty notices: we know from experience that South Cambs is such a big area that even when we focus on a particular set of villages the number of tickets issues is very low: far too low to cover the costs of enforcement (on average about one ticket every two hours by a PCSO who is really looking for offenders).
So, what to do? As the Area Commander responsible for delivering your local policing services it’s my job to strike a balance between local priorities and dealing with the other demands on the police- some of you don’t believe that we’ve struck the right balance yet and want us to do more. I’ve been giving this some though recently and I’ve come up with the following plan.
Firstly- you can report concerns about parking directly here:
This information goes directly to me and allows me to build up a picture of exactly where and when parking is an issue.
Secondly, I’m going to use this information to run occasional ‘crack-down’ days: targeted patrols using volunteer Special Constables and some of your local PCSOs to focus on the areas that we’ve identified as parking ‘hot spots’. There is good evidence that crack-downs can work in other areas of policing so we will try it for parking.
For obvious reasons I’m not going to publicise the dates of the crack-downs and they won’t be all the time- our response has got to be balanced. However, I’m hoping that you do see some improvement and we will feedback to you via twitter, ecops and this blog on how we get on.
So… over to you: let me know where illegal parking is a problem and I’ll target some resources at it. I may go out and issue a few tickets myself. It’s been a while but I have my ticket book somewhere…
Chief Inspector James Sutherland
Area Commander- South Cambs