Baltimore business community seeks solutions to persistent squeegee problem

A young man washes a windshield as motorists wait at a red light on October 23, 2018 in Baltimore. Raclette workers have long been an irritant to downtown business owners, and a deadly showdown last week has only heightened that anxiety. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

After a confrontation between young squeegee workers and a furious motorist ends in fatal gunfire, Baltimore’s business community is once again looking for ways to keep children, teens and young adults offering to clean motorists’ windshields in exchange for money or, in some cases, funds sent via Venmo or Cashapp.

So-called squeegee kids or squeegee workers are seen as a problem by many business owners, who believe their presence has made downtown Baltimore increasingly unattractive to tourists, employees and customers.

To find solutions to this problem, Mayor Brandon Scott convened a group of business, government and community leaders, with the first meeting taking place on Thursday.

A list of those who attended the meeting has not been made public, but the group, known as the Squeegee Collaborative, is co-chaired by John Brothers, president of the T. Rowe Price Foundation, and Joseph Jones, president and CEO. of the Center for Urban Families, according to a letter sent by Deputy Mayor Faith Leach ahead of the meeting.

According to the letter, the collective will spend the next four to six weeks “developing a comprehensive strategy, discussing resource allocation as well as policy and system changes needed to maintain viable alternatives to scraping.”

Raclette workers aren’t a new problem in Baltimore — they’ve been around since the 1980s, and the city has tried a number of initiatives to try to get them off the streets, from launching job training programs to positioning of security throughout the city center .

“It’s something that’s been around in Baltimore for decades and while it’s not new or a new problem, it will require new and different strategies if we’re going to solve what has been a long-standing challenge for all of us.” , Scott said at a press conference on Thursday.

Late last year, the mayor and his administration put in place a 90-day plan to deal with raclette workers. The plan recommended, among other things, that the city increase the engagement and awareness of squeegee workers, hire staff to keep youth and motorists safe, and provide youth with stipends to work other day jobs in the city.

Sharon Schreiber, chief operating officer of the Greater Baltimore Committee, a city trade association, said evaluating the success of this plan should be a key step for stakeholders to take as they begin to devise solutions. .

“As part of a broader discussion with business and other leaders, we should look at the success of the plan. By working together, we can come up with further action steps to further address the long-term problem,” she told the Daily Record via email.

Although Schreiber noted that she could not quantify the effect squeegee workers have had on businesses in downtown Baltimore, she noted that crime in general continues to be a major concern for businesses. from the city. The crime has been cited as a reason many businesses leave the central business district or leave Baltimore altogether.

“The main impact that we can talk about is the continued deep concern of the GBC and its Board of Directors over the wide accessibility of guns in the city, the high incidence of gun crime and the perception, good or bad, of some employers and employees that the city is not safe. The GBC continues to uphold and promote to public officials that public safety is fundamental to a stable and welcoming business environment,” she said.

Scott promised to keep the community updated on the progress of the city’s strategy to reach out to raclette workers.

“In the coming weeks, we look forward to providing updates on this work and letting the people of Baltimore know how we are working for them to provide solutions to this problem that has plagued our city for generations,” said Scott.

On Thursday, a 15-year-old was arrested and charged as an adult in connection with the shooting death of a motorist during an encounter last week with raclette workers at the intersection of Light and Conway downtown, police said.

In a news release, Baltimore police said detectives arrested the teenager around 6:35 a.m. at a home in Essex, Baltimore County.

Police say investigators took the suspect and his father to the homicide section for questioning by detectives before he was charged with first-degree murder.

The Baltimore Sun reported on Wednesday that dash cam video of last Thursday’s shooting showed what appeared to be the teenager shooting Timothy Reynolds five times. The contents of the video were first reported by The Baltimore Banner, but the video has not been made public.

Reynolds, 48, of Baltimore, was crossing an intersection near the city’s inner harbor when he had a heated interaction with squeegee workers, parked his car and returned with a baseball bat, said Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison earlier this week.

He “swung the bat at one or more of these squeegee workers. In return, one of the squeegee workers pulled out a gun and fired,” hitting Reynolds, according to Harrison.

“I hope today’s arrest brings some peace and peace to the family, friends and loved ones of Timothy Reynolds,” Harrison said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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