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Saturday, November 26, 2022

No One Wins in Baltimore’s Squeegee Debate

There are no winners when it comes to squeegee workers and drivers who clash during altercations over tips. Windex; squeegees; high-traffic intersections; children who are trying to make money from drivers will never mix. It doesn’t matter how anyone flips the discussion. The location of cars that get stopped doesn’t matter, nor does the year. Poverty does.  

  Allowing kids to dash in and out of traffic to “earn” change, CashApp tips, or dollar bills is a recipe for future disasters. This old discussion from the ‘80s, ‘90s and now the 2000s needs to be retired. Ban squeegeeing. Find a way to take legal measures. Do it now, not later. Please. Lives are at stake.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s Administration announced the launch of a 90 Day Squeegee Action Plan to address ongoing issues with squeegee workers in Baltimore. Connecting youth who squeegee to plans, mentors, and services is a good thing. Allowing them to still squeegee on certain street corners leaves the door open for another “incident.” 

   Timothy Reynolds, who was shot and killed at the intersection of Light and Conway streets in downtown Baltimore by a teenage squeegee worker on July 7, 2022, represents what can go wrong when youth are allowed to clean windshields when frustrated drivers are left to handle refusing “services” alone. The squeegee kid accused of shooting Reynolds following an altercation that reportedly involved the man swinging a bat, him getting hit in the head with a rock and then was shot five times. The alleged 15-year-old shooter could be tried in juvenile court as a part of a plea deal which involves a reduced charge, instead of as an adult with first-degree murder charge.

 “The Reynolds family plans to attend the hearing Thursday to ask the judge to turn down the proposed deal,” according to WBAL’s report.

   Two families— Baltimoreans, business owners, and residents— all lose in the Reynolds case. Baltimore’s allowance of squeegeeing enables a new generation of disenfranchised youth to risk getting tangled up with the prison system. Some drop out of school to clean windshields. If most squeegee kids continue going to “work,” the attractiveness of getting quick cash from empathetic tippers won’t fade. 

   According to a Fox 45 story, an anonymous teen who squeegees said, “You can make $200-$500 a day.” And in 2020, The Baltimore Sun reported comments made by Governor Larry Hogan, after a meeting. “The Republican governor mentioned Monday that “one of the ministers had a program where they were trying to employ some of the squeegee kids, but the problem is some of those squeegee kids make 40 or 50 dollars an hour harassing people on the streets, and it’s hard to replace that with a job,” per the article.

   Some reports mention that the youth are trying to feed their families. Others want to make spending cash, pay bills, or purchase things they need. 

   Don’t skip parental involvement because every squeegee kid lives or stays somewhere. Go there and find out what problems need to be addressed. Knock on doors and maybe there will be less Timothy Reynolds.

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