The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (the JPR) published a report yesterday claiming that Hackney Parking Services are failing to take anti-Semitic parking related incidents seriously enough. Hackney is home to a large Charedi population predominantly living in the Stamford Hill area.
The report highlights the fact that 3 ‘allegedly’ anti-Semitic events took place in the last calendar year, with 2 in the latter half of the year – a rise of 50% on the 6 months before. In particular the report focuses upon incidents in which Parking Attendants are allegedly abusive.
Head of Parking Enforcent at Hackney Council, Colin Block said, “we take all incidents of racial abuse fairly seriously. We have conducted a full investigation into each incident, holding extensive interviews with the relevant civil enforcement officer [Parking Attendant] about the incident, their past disciplinary record, and examples of where they have contributed to the success of a group in the past.”
In one incident highlighted by the report, it was alleged that a Stamford Hill resident showed a Parking officer that his ticket had not yet expired and threatened to make a formal complaint. Allegedly the Parking Officer responded: “Listen rabbit hat, why don’t you go back to Vilna? If you don’t, I am going to get a job in a Telma Chicken soup factory, and crumble ground up bacon into the mixture. How are you going to like Grandma’s chicken soup then?”
Colin Block acknowledged that such a complaint had been made, but said “It would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases.” He added that he found it “unlikely” a parking attendant would have made such specific comments about things like the material of particular items of clothing, the history of Eastern European Jewish migration, the manufacturer of chicken soup, kosher ingredients and who in the family is likely to cook the chicken soup. “Generally, with obvious counter examples, non Jewish people are much less interested in the details of everyday Jewish life than Jews themselves.” He added that, “While we seek to investigate all complaints thoroughly, we also have to ensure that we are fair to staff, particularly those who have had an exemplary disciplinary record.”
JPR’s Executive Director, Jon Boyden responded to Block by arguing that, “there is a Catch-22 situation. If the Parking Attendant is found not guilty, then, the incident is struck off their past record. This means that when a new complaint is made, there is no way of assessing whether complaints are consistently made against individual Parking Attendants.”
Hackney Council alleges that people deliberately make complaints involving racist allegations in order to avoid paying parking fines, and that “A Civil Enforcement Officer with a long history of quality public service is unlikely to simply out of the blue launch a racially motivated attack towards a member of the public.” Hackney’s previous policy when racist allegations were made was to rescind the parking ticket of the complainant. Hackney claims that it has stopped doing this because a number of dubious allegations against Parking Officers were made.
“At the end of the day” Colin Brock said, “Jews and not just Jews, but also other ethnic groups are often closely knit communities, that tend to stick together. People disseminate information, such as loopholes in parking contravention rules telling friends and family members how to get off parking tickets, even if this involves dishonest allegations. The truth is we ticket everyone. That is all we are seeking – that everyone, regardless of creed or colour, gets a parking ticket.”