Traffic wardens face the flak

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The Independent Online

Traffic wardens have always expected a degree of hostility - the two- fingered salute or the odd expletive, perhaps. But Cardiff's wardens are apparently anticipating something more - they are being fitted with bullet- proof body armour.

Police in South Wales say their meter men and women are facing a rise in assaults and the use of weapons as they try to enforce parking regulations.

They are fitting at least 100 wardens with flak jackets which can withstand the blast of a .357 magnum handgun at close range. The jackets are part of a wider move to fit 3,000 police officers in South Wales with protective clothing.

The bullet-proof or stab-proof vests, also issued to colleagues in the seaside town of Redcar in Cleveland, have been welcomed by the traffic wardens union, Unison. It claims its members need more protection.

Last year traffic wardens in South Yorkshire began training in martial arts, while wardens in the London borough of Hackney were given self-defence lessons after 16 needed hospital treatment in nine months. Assaults ranged from a baseball bat attack to being thrown across a car bonnet.

But some of Cardiff's wardens are not convinced that the jackets will protect them against road-raging motorists.

One warden said yesterday: "Drivers don't shoot or stab us - they try to run us over. I can't see a flak-jacket giving us much protection against that."