John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Video camera trial for Tauranga parking wardens successful

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An example of the miniature video camera and screen that is helping to keep Tauranga parking officers safe. Photo/file
An example of the miniature video camera and screen that is helping to keep Tauranga parking officers safe. Photo/file

Miniature video cameras have been successfully deployed to curb confrontations including threats against Tauranga's long-suffering parking officers.

Stuart Crosby, the city's mayor until the elections a fortnight ago, said the feedback he received was that the trial had been very successful.

The cameras worn on the jackets of parking officers gave a degree of protection and could be used as evidence in a court case, he said.

Mr Crosby, now a Bay of Plenty regional councillor, said the cameras had proved their worth in other towns and cities around New Zealand.

"Officer safety is paramount when people were prepared to use violence against them."

He said the sight of the cameras made people think twice before they did anything irrational.

Council customer services manager Margaret Batchelar said they had just completed a four-month trial of the body-worn cameras.

Several cameras were trialled, including one that incorporated a small screen so that the agitated person actually saw themselves being filmed.

Mrs Batchelar said the next step was to evaluate the information before a decision was made on whether to equip enforcement officers with the devices.

"No decision has been made."

She said the past five months had been relatively uneventful for staff, with only low-level incidents of foul language from members of the public.

Earlier reports on the effectiveness of the cameras was that they had a dramatic effect in calming people down. Within a few days of them being worn, parking officers began to notice dramatic changes - the cameras were activated as soon as a situation began to escalate.

The decision to trial the cameras followed an increase in the number of difficult situations that parking officers were dealing with, including verbal abuse, physical abuse, aggressive behaviour and threats.

An officer who spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times earlier this year on condition he was not identified said a situation was defused on the first day of the trial when a person rushed across the road in a clearly agitated state towards a colleague wearing a camera.

''They spotted the camera and calmed down. It was not as heated as it could have been.''

He said the cameras were all about safety when someone got in your face. People tended to back down once they realised they were being recorded.

The officer had noticed a lot more animosity being directed towards him for the 18 months prior to the introduction of the cameras. Ninety per cent of people were pretty good, 10 per cent got heated and two of that 10 per cent were quite aggressive.

''It is because people are not in ideal situations, the stress is there.''


Main benefits of the video cameras
- Defuse aggressive behaviour
- Hold those responsible to account
-Provide clear evidence in the case of disputes

- Bay of Plenty Times

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