Crackdown heats up against squeegee kids

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Thu, 23 Jul 1998 10:43:16 -0700


July 23, 1998=20

Crackdown heats up against squeegee kids=20

Harris, Lastman, Boothby want them off streets=20

By Phinjo Gombu=20
Toronto Star Staff Reporter

The squeegee wars have begun.=20

The most telling sign is a crackdown by Toronto police on Queen St. W.
between Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St., as well as the Bloor St. W. stretch,
which led to arrests of at least 30 squeegee kids this past week.=20

Then the head of the province's Crime Control Commission Task Force, on
instructions from Premier Mike Harris, said he was looking for a way to
force them off the street.=20

Add to that comments by police Chief David Boothby, who said if the
province outlawed the practice under the Highway Traffic Act he could rid
Toronto of every squeegee kid in Toronto within two weeks, and by Mayor Mel
Lastman, who vowed to get the ``thugs'' off the streets, and it sounds like
a full-scale assault.=20

``We are going to get them off the streets,'' Lastman vowed at the launch
of a blood donor clinic on Bay St. yesterday.=20

``Many of them are thugs . . . All they're doing is intimidating people
into giving them money. They're beggars, and that's all they are . . . The
police are going to do everything they have to to get them off the=
 streets.''=20

Lastman's comments come as Toronto City Council prepares to take a second
look Wednesday at a bylaw that would effectively ban panhandling and
squeegeeing, while putting $500,000 aside to help the kids and the
panhandlers find jobs and decent housing.=20

The bylaw was voted down last week at the committee stage after the city
solicitor said it would be virtually unenforceable.=20

Lastman was joined yesterday by Scarborough West MPP Jim Brown, the head of
the Ontario Crime Control Commission, who said he has been personally
instructed by Harris to do something about the problem.=20

Solutions being considered include banning squeegeeing under the Highway
Traffic Act, and imposing fines on both the kids and drivers who let their
windows be cleaned.=20

`SQUEEGEE HEAVEN'

``I think Toronto is becoming the squeegee capital of the world,'' said
Brown. ``I think we're squeegee heaven. You are going to see more and more
violence and they are certainly getting more and more aggressive.''=20

Others, however, call the crackdown a cheap shot at vulnerable youth for
political reasons, particularly in the face of a possible provincial
election next year.=20

``I think Mr. Brown and company should find something useful to do, like
worry about real crime instead of going after the squeegee kids,'' said
Tony Silipo, deputy leader of the provincial New Democrats.=20

``I'm sure there may be a few of these kids causing problems,'' Silipo
said. ``They should be gone after, there's no doubt. What troubles me is
putting (all of them) under the same umbrella.''=20

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said he sees the issue as a safety problem,
not a criminal problem. He said he feared that one day someone might be run
over by a car. He called for more dialogue between all the parties involved.=
=20

Toronto Councillor Olivia Chow (Downtown) says any crackdown that leads to
arrests criminalizes what is essentially a social issue.=20

``They're not criminals,'' Chow said. ``These are homeless youths who are
trying to make a living.''=20

Chow, like Silipo, said there is little need for additional bylaws or new
laws because the police can easily deal with the minority of squeegee kids
who cause problems.=20

The police crackdown comes in the wake of some high-profile incidents,
including the shooting of a Rottweiler by an officer trying to clear a
group of squeegee kids who were camping in a downtown parkette. Police say
the dog bit the officer in the leg.=20

In a second incident, five squeegee kids were arrested Monday after an
off-duty Toronto police officer says he was accosted at a downtown
intersection.=20

Boothby, who last week asked the police services board to oppose the
panhandling bylaw, has apparently changed his tune, at least in regard to
squeegee kids.=20

``It's a simple issue,'' he said yesterday. ``You just outlaw squeegeeing
under the Highway Traffic Act . . .=20

``Give us provincial legislation and you won't see a squeegee kid around in
two weeks.''=20

OPEN DIALOGUE

Boothby, however, is against the idea of fining motorists who allow their
windshields to be wiped.=20

He also wants the law changed to allow police to arrest squeegee kids who
don't properly identify themselves.=20

Contents copyright =A9 1996-1998, The=A0Toronto=A0Star.
User interface, selection and arrangement copyright =A9 1996-1998,
Torstar=A0Electronic=A0Publishing=A0Ltd.=20

--
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Graeme Bacque
<http://web.arcos.org/gbacque>
#14909975 on ICQ
*Question and challenge *all* human 'authority'*
#######################################