OurSTories: 'Summons uncle' takes abuse in his stride

Certis Cisco enforcement executive Victor Kumaran has been in the job for 12 years and has seen his fair share of errant motorists. Someone once abused him physically, while another tried to bribe him.
Mr Victor Kumaran manages a team of parking enforcement officers but still goes on patrol twice a month to understand the issues on the ground. He said there is no quota and they do not get commissions for summonses.
Mr Victor Kumaran manages a team of parking enforcement officers but still goes on patrol twice a month to understand the issues on the ground. He said there is no quota and they do not get commissions for summonses.PHOTO: ST VIDEO

He's been railed at, offered bribes and even been hit by angry motorists. Still, Mr Victor Kumaran continues to work the ground, checking for errant motorists who flout parking rules.

Mr Kumaran, 33, is an enforcement executive with Certis Cisco and has been with the company since July 2005.

He is one of the 120 parking enforcement officers in charge of Urban Redevelopment Authority carparks that Certis Cisco employs. Another 100 officers are in charge of Housing Board carparks. The majority of its enforcement officers are males, debunking the stereotype of the "summons auntie".

Since Sunday, car owners have been able to pay for parking using the Parking.sg mobile app. But Certis Cisco said that there will be no change to the job of its enforcement officers.

Officers continue to use an electronic handheld terminal (EHT) to process vehicle details.

Vehicles' licence plate numbers are keyed into the EHT to check if the correct fee has been paid.

Paper coupons can still be used at all 1,100 carparks which allow payment using the Parking.sg app.

Mr Kumaran - who is featured in the latest episode of The Straits Times' OurSTories video series - said he had not planned on becoming a "summons uncle".

The self-confessed delinquent had spent his teenage years "fighting, drinking, smoking and getting tattoos". After national service, he could not find a job. "I tried to apply for a job at a fishball factory as a delivery driver but they told me I was not suitable for the job. I think first impressions really count and they could have assumed I was a gangster from the tattoos."

After a few months without a job, he took up a sibling's suggestion to apply to Certis Cisco. He tried for a position as an auxiliary police officer but did not make the cut.

Instead, he was offered a job as an enforcement officer and he grabbed at the chance. "I told myself that I would strive to be more than just a normal carpark attendant. I wanted to climb the ranks."

And that he did, getting promoted four times to reach his current position where he manages a team of 37 officers.

Today, his job involves deploying officers to different areas and managing feedback and complaints.

Twice a month, he still hits the pavement, patrolling carparks in order to understand the operational issues his officers face.

"There's a saying that you should not forget your past. I was previously an enforcement officer. But even in my current post, and even if I move on to a new post, I will still make it a point to work the ground and issue summonses."

He gets plenty of verbal and even physical abuse from irate motorists. "There are people who watch out for officers. When I'm not more than 200m away, I can already hear people shouting, 'Car-park lai liao'. Some of my colleagues even get called hantu," he said, referring to the Malay word for ghost.

One of the more violent incidents happened in January 2014, when he was issuing summonses for a car and a lorry parked illegally in Banda Street in Chinatown.

One of the drivers was angry and verbally abused him. The man then grabbed a wooden pole and swung it at him.

Luckily, he managed to block it. He was later taken to hospital with bruises on his left elbow and fingers. The attacker was arrested and jailed for four months.

"I understand their frustration," he said of errant motorists about to be booked. "I try to put myself in their shoes. After all, they have to cough up money to pay off the fines," he said.

He added: "They think we have a quota to hit, or that we get commission from issuing summonses. That's not true at all."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline ''Summons uncle' takes abuse in his stride'. Print Edition | Subscribe