Saturday, September 11, 2004

Scottish Wardens Get Kits to Catch Spitters

Scotland: Traffic wardens in the Capital are to be issued with DNA swab kits in a bid to catch people who spit on them while they are working. More than 60 Greenway-patrolling police wardens are to be given the kits to secure evidence and encourage more reporting of incidents. The move, instigated by Lothian and Borders Police, comes after a number of wardens reported being spat on by members of the public. It also follows the introduction of the "spit kits" on Edinburgh buses, ScotRail services and the London Underground. The kits include sterile swabs to pick up any trace of an offender’s DNA. The packs also contain a pair of latex gloves and an evidence collection bag. New laws mean anyone arrested for an offence can be DNA-tested and their unique profile added to a national database. Any DNA matches can be made within a matter of seconds. Police said they had seen a rise in the number of incidents in which wardens have been spat on. In one recent case, a cyclist spat in a female traffic warden’s face for no apparent reason. Another victim is traffic warden Bill Wilson, 55, who is based at King’s Stables Road. Recalling a recent incident, he said: "I was asking a van driver to move on because he was parked in the wrong place. He got really angry and started shouting at me. I asked him again to please move on, explaining that I would have to give him a ticket if he didn’t. "At that point he just spat at me - it landed right on the lapel of my jacket. It was disgusting. "All I was doing was asking him to move - I was giving him an opportunity before issuing a ticket." Mr Wilson, who has been a city warden for three years, added: "I think these kits are a great idea. If I had one when this man spat at me he could have been convicted. "I think it is totally unacceptable we should have to put up with this kind of behaviour from the public while we are at work." Inspector David Legge, who is in charge of Lothian and Borders Police’s traffic warden section, said: "Just the thought of being spat upon will sicken and repel most people and nobody should have to work with the fear of this happening to them. "Unfortunately, wardens are occasionally confronted by irate drivers or members of the public. Verbal abuse is common but, thankfully, a physical assault only occurs in the very isolated case. We will not accept violence, or the threat of such, for carrying out our duties. "People who choose to resort to physical means will be pursued and the powerful tool of DNA-profiling used for that purpose. "The public will by now be aware of just what can be done in the DNA evidence arena and we intend to fully use it." Insp Legge added: "Our wardens are approachable and communicative. They can offer information and guidance. "However, their core function is to reduce congestion on priority routes in Edinburgh by minimising obstructions to traffic at key times of the day. "Generally, the wardens enjoy a peaceful relationship with the motoring public of Edinburgh. Most drivers accept the presence of the wardens enforcing the Greenway regulations as improving the environment, optimising road safety and refining traffic operations on key routes." In April, DNA kits were issued to more than 1800 employees at the city’s two main bus firms. More than 25 bus passengers faced assault charges for spitting at drivers following the introduction of the saliva recovery kits on services run by First in Glasgow last September.


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