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$83,000 worth of body cameras to keep council’s parking staff safe from abuse

News from WCC
Following a successful trial last year, Wellington City Council parking officers will now use body-worn video cameras as part of their regular uniform and gear.

Parking officers were fitted with cameras in mid-2016 to test the effectiveness of available equipment, the operational impacts of the cameras on the parking officers, and the effect on public behaviour towards parking officers.

“Evidence suggests the cameras act as a deterrent. People are less likely to become abusive or violent when they are aware they are being filmed,” says City Council Parking Services Manager Michelle Riwai.

The Council’s parking officers will start wearing the cameras this week. The purchase of the cameras and supporting equipment has cost about $83,000.

Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman, the City Council’s Transport Strategy Portfolio Leader, says effective parking enforcement is essential for the wellbeing of the city’s retailers and business community, and for road safety.

“Our parking officers help to support our city’s businesses by ensuring that short-term parking spaces are not monopolised long-term. They also work to discourage motorists from parking dangerously or inconsiderately.

“Our parking officers are trained in first-aid, incident detection and conflict minimisation, and they willingly assist Wellington’s residents and visitors by providing directions to and advice about local amenities. Incidents of serious abuse of parking officers are thankfully rare, but these new cameras will help us keep our officers and our city safe.”

How does it work?

The camera will only be activated when an interaction becomes confrontational and the officer feels unsafe. When this happens, officers will advise the person the camera is operating. The camera has a front-facing screen. Members of the public can see their ‘live’ image and know they are being recorded.

All footage will be held securely. Video footage will be deleted after 48 hours, unless the footage is deemed worth keeping, in which case it will be held on file for one month and then reviewed. The new cameras will not be used to gather infringement evidence.

13 comments:

  1. Mary M, 8. April 2017, 14:49

    The costs of the surveillance state for commerce and profit.

     
  2. Traveller, 9. April 2017, 10:23

    The level of abuse must have been very serious, to warrant such expenditure.

     
  3. Mike, 9. April 2017, 14:43

    @ Traveller, they say they are are “rare”.
    If they were trained to walk away from confrontation, the $83,000 cameras would not be needed.

     
  4. Mark Shanks, 10. April 2017, 8:11

    When WCC make $4.4m a year out of parking, then $83K is negligible and especially when they are considering another hike of 50c/hour. This will increase the extortion and increase the confrontation. Endless!

     
  5. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 10. April 2017, 22:09

    Mike, yes the level of significant abuse is thankfully rare and the parking officers work on the basis of “educate and encourage” first, before enforcement, wherever possible. But low level abuse is a constant factor in their working lives. Low level abuse can escalate without warning. A good employer always protects its staff from danger, as far as it’s possible to do so.

    Mark, yes. the council “makes” money from parking. It rents space on the road and in its carparks. This is public space in short supply, and it makes little sense to simply give it up to the first arrival when it should be shared for everyone’s benefit. Several NZ councils have experimented with abandoning charges and/or enforcement over recent years, and in each case the public have called for a return. Don’t forget, the money gained comes back into the accounts, which would otherwise have to be refilled by further increases in rates. It’s no more “extortion” than a charge to use a council swimming pool or to ride on a Metlink bus but thankfully users of these services are less likely to “confront” a bus driver or pool receptionist.

    The proposed 50 cent increase to $4.50 per hour is the first for 13 years* – with inflation over that period the charge has fallen in real terms and should arguably be $5.25 now. (*The zone has widened during that period.)

     
  6. Keith Flinders, 11. April 2017, 10:22

    On the basis that the WCC makes money out of car parking, and I’m all for that, is the WCC charging the developer of the Bowen State building for the car parks lost? He has not only extended his building site out over the footpath, and taken away metered car parks, but has also taken over control of one of the lanes in Bowen Street. Bowen Street is a major arterial route and now suffers because of its reduced width.

    I did write to Chris C F about this weeks ago and although he passed the comments to the Town Planner no response has been forthcoming.

    Compare the Bowen Street situation to the BP House replacement construction that isn’t impacting traffic movement.

     
  7. Marion Leader, 11. April 2017, 13:09

    Keith, I agree that the lack of response from the Council is unsatisfactory. While you are waiting I will try to find out how much extra is being paid in rates. It should be a lot.

     
  8. Mark Shanks, 13. April 2017, 15:12

    Thank you Chris for responding to Wellington.Scoop posts.
    In my case I think you have made a faulty comparison when you equate the cost of a carpark with entry to a council pool or a ride on a bus. In the latter cases I get a personal and tangible benefit from the purchase – I get to my destination or I have a swim. Parking my car is different. I am paying for my lump of metal to sit on a specified area for a certain length of time and do not get any security for my vehicle for this price. I think this lack of personal benefit and sense of tangible value is at the heart of people’s feelings that parking fees are a form of extortion and why some people may get so irate that they physically threaten the enforcement officer, and hence the decision to buy expensive body cameras.
    Hence also there is, I think, a direct correlation between an increase in parking fees and an increased feeling of extortion. Saying that there has been no increase for 13 years, and that we should be paying $1.25/hour more than we presently do, does little to alleviate that feeling, because some people don’t see the ‘value’ at any price.
    I also did not factor in to my revenue-gathering total of $4.4m per year the amount of money the council collects from parking fines. I expect this is not insignificant and consequently well worth enforcing. This adds further weight to the feeling of extortion as fines are a means of securing money by coercion, ie. penalty by law. Added to this is the feeling (notice how cumulative they are) that tickets are applied with such enthusiasm, efficiency and speed that it seems to many to be in stark contrast with the incompetence, inefficiency, and waste with which the ends for which the monies are supposedly collected are pursued. This alacrity to ticket offenders for a victimless crime begs the question whether the council parking officers have minimum targets to achieve and whether, like speed cameras, revenue-collection is the primary goal? One would have no cause for complaint or suspicion if other more important aspects of the council rules and regulations were applied with similar rigour and efficiency. I could go on. Parking is a BIG issue and an integral part of the LGWM equation.

     
  9. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 14. April 2017, 18:24

    Mark: I completely agree with you that “parking is a BIG issue and an integral part of the LGWM equation”. Parking supply and cost (including, of course, workplace parking) affect commuters’ travel decisions.

    “I am paying for my lump of metal to sit on a specified area for a certain length of time….. I think this lack of personal benefit and sense of tangible value is at the heart of people’s feelings that parking fees are a form of extortion….”

    Yes, “your lump of metal” is taking up space that could be used by other people to park, or for other purposes such as widened footpaths, outdoor dining/recreation, or cycle/bus lanes. Just because you don’t perceive the space where your car is parked as giving you “personal benefit” doesn’t mean it doesn’t – in fact it’s a very personal, exclusive benefit, for which you currently pay $4/hour, about the same as a cup of coffee. In that context, overstaying isn’t a “victimless crime” as your over-use of the space deprives someone else of this space, and of course if your car is parked obstructively, you delay or endanger other road users, robbing them of time or safety.

    Look, I’m not anti-car. I enjoy the convenience that mine affords me but I’m well aware that my use of my car negatively affects other people. Unfortunately, decades of car advertising extolling the benefits of cars – speed, security, status, convenience, mobility etc – have created a sense of entitlement amount many car owners, rendering them incapable of appreciating that car use (and car parking) is a privilege, not a right, especially when it involves driving in the inner city. This sense of privilege can be seen in drivers bullying and abusing road workers, cyclists and parking officers – in fact anyone that may be seen as impeding drivers’ rights to the speed, convenience and mobility that they’ve been sold (or arguably mis-sold).

     
  10. Mark Shanks, 20. April 2017, 8:31

    Thanks Chris. I’m not anti-car either especially when it gets me to the surf on time but parking for my car that enables me to work to survive and pay taxes is a compliance cost which for me is not tax deductible. I’m loathe to compare parking fees with the price of a cup of coffee, which is exorbitant anyway, and a luxury, where parking is a necessity with the way public transport is configured in this fair city. I go back to Paul Eagle’s comments in 2013. “I think you’d be hard pressed to find a motorist, city visitor or retailer with something good to say about our parking services, parking prices, or parking wardens. And that is a major reputation issue for our city.” Has anything changed?

     
  11. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 20. April 2017, 19:43

    Yes it has: WCC’s parking service is now in-house, well managed, with an “educate, encourage (and only if that fails) enforce” ethos. And WCC’s CBD parking charges haven’t risen for 13 years!

     
  12. Richard, 20. April 2017, 22:39

    @Chris. The last time parking prices increased, it was from $2.50 to $4. Assuming an average rate of inflation of 2% per year over the past 13 years, on street CBD parking should be ~$3.20 per hour.

     
  13. Troy H, 21. April 2017, 12:40

    If only the WCC trained their employees to walk away from the (rare) conflict that occasionally comes with park-wise’s policing the fines to people who cannot afford them. A rare case of abuse does not justify the need for the body camera surveillance costs.

     

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