A parking enforcement officer or parking attendant is a member of a traffic control department or agency who issues tickets for parking violations. Where parking meters are used, they may be known as a meter attendant , traffic warden (British English), or, derogatorily, a meter Nazi or meter maid for both female and male attendants.
Their use is controversial, and they are often perceived as being over zealous, leaving themselves open to accusations that their real purpose is to raise revenue for the local authority rather than keep the traffic moving. Critics will point to the number of tickets issued for over staying their time in a designated parking area, even when there are plenty of other spaces available, and argue that the "punishment does not fit the crime", pointing to the size of fines levied for minor parking violations in the United Kingdom, which range from £50 upwards, and compare these with fines generally issued in the Magistrates Court for more serious motoring offences and other offences which involve dishonesty such as shoplifting. Public dislike of parking attendants is such that recently in the UK, attendants have been issued with cotton swabs to take DNA samples for later prosecution if members of the public spit on them.
On December the 9th 2007 the mayor of Stockholm Mikael Söderlund announced that the tasks of the Parking enforcement officers will be broadened to include fining graffiti vandals and litterers. Trade union representatives say they are not prepared to take on new tasks, already stretched by metering cars, and that they fear the risk of violence.
Initially introduced as a countermeasure against the unpopularity of parking meters installed the previous year, the Maids are known for their gold bikini outfits and (now defunct) tiaras.
Ticket-issuing parking inspectors continue to patrol streets to enforce parking regulations, and the Gold Coast City Council is installing voucher-dispensing parking machines in place of traditional parking meters, leaving 'meter maids' unable to top up the meter to protect vehicles from being fined by increasingly vigilant parking inspectors.
In some areas in Canada, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires provides parking enforcement services .
The cities of Montreal and Toronto however seems to be a sort of exception, with parking enforcement officers possessing unique uniforms and vehicles. However, these officers are a sub-division of their respective police force (SPVM (Service de police de la ville de Montreal, i.e., Montreal City Police and Toronto Police Service).
Civil enforcement officers, formally known as parking attendants, are employed by local authorities. Since the advent of Decriminalised Parking Enforcement, they have largely replaced traffic wardens as the primary enforcers of parking regulations. They have the power to issue Penalty Charge Notices. In Northern Ireland, they enforce using powers under the Traffic Management (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 and are known as Traffic Attendants. Civil enforcement officers normally patrol on foot, however some use cars or mopeds, particularly in larger areas.