TRAFFIC wardens working in Southend are being issued with swab-kits so they can catch people who spit at them.
Contractor Apcoa, which employs wardens to patrol the borough, has issued the kits to all frontline officers in a bid to catch more people who commit the vile assaults on its staff.
The move follows a case last year where a warden was spat at in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff.
Manager Neil Hunwicks said: “Our officer was spat at and the perpetrator brought along his wife to the trial as a witness.
“It was our one officer’s word against theirs and if there hadn’t been CCTV in the road, we might not have been able to prove it.
“This is something which can help us gather evidence.
“But the idea is to make people aware that we have this as an option and will pursue a prosecution, so theywon’t attack our officers in the first place.
“It’s just a small minority who would do something like that, but we do everything we can to keep our officers safe and won’t tolerate abuse of any kind.”
In the past two years, there have been 40 recorded attacks on officers in Southend, involving all types of assaults.
The kits will be used to capture a swab of saliva from someone who spits at a warden which will be passed to the police. Officers would take a sample and test its DNA against a national database.
Jade Glover, a supervisor for Apcoa and its hate crimes officer, came up with the idea.
She said: “There’s been an increase in spitting and it is hard to catch people doing it.
“If someone is a passenger in a car, they’re hard to pin down.
“I’d heard them being used in the security industry and other places, so I thought it was something we might be able to do.
“Everyone here is happy about the idea and is willing to learn how to use the kit.”
Chief Insp Matt Bennett, Southend district commander, said: “I welcome Apcoa’s swab-kit initiative. It provides the police with even more opportunities to bring anyone to justice who assaults or abuses a civil enforcement officer.
“It shouldn’t be underestimated the role civil enforcement officers perform in the community. Without them, the roads would simply grind to a halt.”
BEING spat at is the worst thing to happen to an officer, says the woman who came up with the swab kit idea.
Jade Glover, 27, from Southend, has worked as a warden for seven years.
She was on the receiving end of the crime when someone had parked illegally during an airshow weekend, close to the seafront.
She said: “It was a woman. She didn’t agree with a ticket. She was swearing at me and she just spat right at my face.
“You do step back, but it hit me.
It was quite horrifying, especially when you smell it afterwards.”
The perpetrator was never caught.
SWABS will be measured against the Police National DNA database.
The database formerly collected and retained indefinitely the DNA samples and profiles of anybody arrested. However, the Government ordered the removal of children and innocent people from the database and millions of profiles have been removed.
The data collected by parking enforcement officers in Southend will be tested against the database and destroyed if there is no match.