ALERT: Police sweep "squeegee kids" from Toronto streets FWD

Tom Boland (
Tue, 27 Jul 1999 12:18:25 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  Toronto Reuters Newsroom - Monday July 26, 1999


     By Luke McCann

TORONTO, July 26 (Reuters) - Squeegee kids who wash car windows at busy
downtown intersections, often homeless and dressed in grubby clothing, were
scarce in Canada's largest city on Monday as police waged a determined
program to clean up city streets.

At a popular corner hang-out for many of the city's squeegee kids, idle
water buckets were all that remained after a police sweep intended to
cutdown on vagrant kids brandishing long handled, rubber-edged window

``They're breaking the law,'' police inspector Randal Monroe said.

``They're encumbering a highway which is against the law, they're rendering
business on a highway which is against the law, and more often than not,
when the person doesn't want those services, then it becomes a form of
public mischief.''

A squeegee kid caught after a warning can be arrested for obstructing
police, a criminal offense, Monroe added.

Toronto, a city of gleaming skyscrapers huddled on the shores of Lake
Ontario, is often praised by visitors for its cleanliness and low crime
rate. But a number of politicians, worried the city's reputation was at
stake, have been calling for a crackdown.

Comparisons have been made to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's pioneering
zero-tolerance campaign, which has made some social commentators worry
civil liberties will be trampled to remove harmless kids from the streets.

But Monroe said the task force of about 175 officers a night have made few
arrests considering the amount of hours of policing.

A total of 54 arrests and 2,000 note worthy problems were recorded by
police in the first four days of the program.

``It's my third summer working here, and I've never seen it as quiet as
today,'' a manager of an espresso shop overlooking a busy squeegee hangout
said on Monday on condition of anonymity.

Some days he would complain to police three or four times a day that
squeegee kids were loitering in and around his store and sat on the
restaurant's patio.

``We would ask them to leave and they would be back in ten minutes, then
the police would ask them to leave and they would be back in half an
hour,'' he said.

Heidi, a 21-year-old from Victoria, British Columbia said she makes C$50
squeegeeing between 3 a.m. and 7 p.m., but now has trouble even sleeping in
a park or doorway because police wake her up and tell her to move.

She worries that forcing kids not to squeegee will turn them to crime.

Toronto's mayor Mel Lastman and police are confident they have widespread
public support, and await a promise by the provincial government to make
the act of squeegeeing illegal.

The crackdown will run until the end of September.

``People don't need to get angry, it's just washing their windows, Heidi
said. ''It's harmless."

($1=$1.51 Canadian)


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