Parking bandits lead life of crime

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FOR DETECTIVES everywhere who find the criminal fraternity one step ahead of them, there was new hope last night. To catch a criminal, research published by the Home Office showed, officers need look no further than cars parked illegally in disabled bays.

The research, based on information provided by traffic wardens in Huddersfield and published by the Home Office yesterday, shows that people parking in bays without an orange disabled badge are more likely to have committed other offences.

One in five owners who parked in disabled bays over a six-month period were of immediate interest to police. One in three owners had a criminal record, half had a history of traffic violation and one in five of the cars caught were known or suspected to have been previously used in crime.

Criminologists from Huddersfield University, who produced the study, say it also holds out new hope to beleaguered traffic wardens who have a role to playing in beating crime rather than just dealing with remonstrating motorists on the pavement.

Home Office Minister Paul Boateng heralded the research as new evidence of the benefits of offender profiling.

The criminologists stumbled on their quarry rather by accident. "The specific case of disabled parking bays came from nothing more substantial than irritation with able-bodied people who park there," their report stated. "People who are the most committed criminals will not willingly be bound by law or convention of any kind. The most versatile criminal is also the person who jumps queues and parks on double yellow lines."

In profiling likely criminals through their actions, they followed American research which analysed the records of New York "Squeegee merchants" who pounce on cars at traffic lights and clean windscreens. A substantial number of them had outstanding warrants for felony offences, research showed.

Mr Boateng said the new research would allow police to "target local crime with the benefit of accurate intelligence on offending patterns without fear of being accused of victimisation".

Huddersfield's traffic wardens are delighted by the report's findings and say a role in cracking crime will give them more job satisfaction.