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02 May 2014

Through the eyes of the traffic warden

Through the eyes of the traffic warden

“Surely you can’t be a traffic warden and a Christian?!” said one friend, confirming some people’s stereotype of what a Christian ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ do for a job. 

Despite receiving verbal and sometimes physical abuse purely for doing his job, one particular civil enforcement officer aims to be a familiar and yet friendly fixture in Coalville, Leicestershire, as well as being dedicated to his community.

When you look beyond the uniform, Alan Liggins is far from a killjoy or a modern-day tax collector. He greets people with a smile, sings hymns under his breath while on his rounds and strives to respond with peace and positivity in the face of confrontation. 

Having been a central part of the Coalville community since 1955 when his family began running a grocery and post office store, he has worked for the council for nearly 14 years. The warden particularly enjoys being a presence on the streets to help keep people safe or give directions or assistance as needed. 

“People think that parking in the wrong places will never harm anyone but the reality is often what they are doing does put others at risk,” he says. “I see the bigger picture and want to benefit the whole community and that involves respecting the rules. 

“Dropping children off in dangerous places or obstructing exits can cause accidents involving other children – or adults – and it’s just because the parents can’t be bothered to walk five minutes down the street.” 

Alan began working with the council as a neighbourhood warden back in 2001 and enjoyed working for the community, liaising with tenants’ associations, litter-picking and helping the vulnerable. 

“I got to know everyone in the neighbourhood and I really miss some of that in my current role as a civil enforcement officer.” 

Alan gets used to dealing with angry reactions, verbal heckling and has even been kicked and punched at times but he learns not to be fearful. 

“We get a lot of abuse. It has calmed down but it used to be even worse. I’ve been hit three or four times in serious kafuffles. 

“People get very defensive and take their anger out on us. I have to remember that it is not personal. They are reacting to the uniform and the system rather than hating me per se.

“I’m not there to deliberately make people’s lives a misery. My job is for the public good.” 

“You hear all sorts of colourful excuses for parking offences,” adds Alan. “’The hairdresser was late’, ‘I lost my purse’, ‘I didn’t understand the signs’, ‘the meter didn’t work’, ‘my child was sick or the dog escaped’. 

“I’m not there to deliberately make people’s lives a misery. My job is for the public good.”

“I must have heard them all. Mostly I avoid going into whether I think they are genuine and calmly and politely explain how they can appeal if they would like to. 

“People see me coming in my uniform and it gets their back up but those who know me and give me a chance realise what a kind person I am. Most people think we are just money-grabbing individuals but there are also restrictions that protect public interest,” said Alan. 

In response to whether he was tempted to let people off their fines Alan expressed joy about the times when a person returns to their vehicle before he has started the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and the gratitude and happiness that this visibly brings.

So what’s Alan’s vision? “I don’t know what God has in my future but for now this is what I am called to do. God has put me in this job at this time, I do it to the best of my ability and I work all things as working for the Lord. I’m called to be available and obedient. I feel a bit like Joseph – who knows, God might have something even greater for me to go onto next. 

“I’ve been a Christian since 1988 and God helps me reflect and review my actions and reactions in my job as well as growing as a member of the community and the Church. I love my area.”

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