Parking officer spends days in hospital after attack labelled most serious in Auckland Transport’s history
A parking warden was admitted to hospital after being attacked on duty in Auckland.
The assault is understood to have kept the warden in hospital for about five nights before he was sent home this week.
Auckland Transport says it was the most serious assault on a staff member since the agency took council parking officers under its wing four years ago.
The warden was working in Kingsland last Thursday when he was attacked from behind about 2.30pm. A pair of towtruck operators, who heard a commotion from the warden's radio over an open channel, rushed to his aid, as did a woman.
Super City Towing owner Craig Burrows confirmed two of his drivers had responded to the Kingsland incident and found the warden injured.
"They got a call over the radio that a guy was being assaulted. Two trucks shot down the road to help him."
One of the drivers had recently towed another vehicle for the parking warden, so when the call came in, he knew roughly where to find the injured man.
An Auckland Transport spokesman "presumed" the officer was writing out an infringement ticket when attacked, but could not confirm that.
The organisation was supporting the warden, who was "expected to make a full recovery".
A 59-year-old Kingsland resident has appeared in the Auckland District Court in connection with the incident.
Peter Brenan Gallagher, whose occupation was listed on court documents as a landscape gardener, faces a charge of wounding with intent to injure.
He could not be reached for comment last night.
Auckland Transport chief operations officer Greg Edmonds described the attack as "the most serious assault" on a parking officer since the council-controlled organisation was established in 2010.
Asked what effect the attack was having on other wardens, Mr Edmonds said: "This is not a frequent occurrence."
But another warden, who spoke to the Herald on condition of anonymity, said the situation relating to violence was "certainly not getting any better. It always happens - it's just part of the job." An organiser for the Public Service Association, Glen Cooper, said the warden had feared for his life during the attack.
He confirmed the warden was a member of his union, and said he had not heard of such a serious attack on parking staff in his 10 years of representing them.
That was despite a high level of abuse suffered by wardens in the course of their work.
"Unfortunately, parking officers do bear the brunt of a public attitude that you can have a go at them."
Mr Edmonds said security for Auckland's 150 wardens was continually under review. There were parts of the city where they always patrolled in pairs and security guards were hired to accompany them after dark.
The wardens carry radios that transmit their positions via GPS to Auckland Transport's new traffic management and incident control centre on Queens Wharf. Signals are sent every 30 seconds, or every 10 seconds if they push distress or emergency buttons.
Asked why Auckland Transport was not equipping wardens with small CCTV cameras, which some ticket inspectors on the city's trains will soon carry on their jackets, Mr Edmonds: "We are monitoring the Transdev trial."
He said the organisation was also keeping an eye on a trial in Hamilton in which two cameras have been used for more than a year by frontline staff including parking wardens and animal control officers.
Auckland Transport says parking wardens receive varying degrees of verbal abuse daily, with an average of six to 10 cases a month involving threats of violence or outright assaults.
In the line of fire
• A parking warden was attacked earlier this month outside a Lower Hutt court, but his attacker came off second best. Police said an argument broke out and punches were thrown, but the assailant was taken to hospital with serious head injuries.
• A parking warden was punched by an angry mother outside a Hamilton primary school when he asked the woman to move her car from a private driveway. The attack happened in 2012.
The warden suffered lacerations but did not retaliate.
• A Dunedin City Council parking warden was pulled from his scooter, scratched and eye-gouged in an unprovoked attack outside Dunedin Hospital in 2011. Police were called following reports that a patient in pyjamas had assaulted a warden.
• An Auckland City Council parking warden was attacked in Pt Chevalier in 2009 when an angry motorist tried to run him down.
After dodging the moving vehicle, the lone officer got into his car before being chased for several hundred metres. The employee was offered counselling.
• A Southland woman attacked a parking warden after being given a ticket for parking on broken yellow lines in 2008. After moving her car, the 27-year-old returned, grabbed his ticket book, kicked him in the leg and punched him in the head. She was sentenced to community work.