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Time to solve the squeegee kid problem

Our city government has taken a consistent attitude of “benign neglect” toward resolving the worsening squeegee kids problem that plagues our city (“Baltimore mayor working on a new plan for handling Baltimore's 'squeegee kids,'” June 12).

Recent news reports and videos have shown the growing criminal acts of these “kids” (intentional property damage to autos, physical confrontation towards drivers). Plain and simple, even absent recent criminal activity, these activities are at best aggressive panhandling, and at worst blatant extortion backed up by implicit or explicit threats of physical assault on property or persons. Our local news channels have shown photos of cracked windshields, scratched car doors, broken windshield wipers and even video of a lone driver out of his car surrounded by several kids with punches being thrown when they blocked his car.

In simple terms, it’s a growing safety threat (on top of our ever-growing other safety threats). And a good portion of these “kids” are obviously school age. Why aren’t they in school? Where are the truant officers? And, sadly, all the city leadership can come up with are ridiculous and unviable solutions. Among those proffered are “find them other jobs, perhaps setting up car wash locations.” First of all, these kids earn far more per hour than any alternative city proposed jobs, and its tax free.

Mayor Jack Young, when questioned about the squeegee kid problem (after viewing videos reflecting the above cited behaviors) was asked what can be done to stop it. He stated “the answer is simple, stop paying them.” Really? The vast majority of their aggressive negative behaviors are directly prompted from not paying them. Many city residents, myself included, now drive alternate (and longer, less convenient) routes throughout the city solely to avoid the squeegee kids. I simply can’t comprehend why the city leadership consistently allows and enables threatening and criminal behaviors by city youth (the recent Inner Harbor activity is yet another example), yet refuses to take any firm action (i.e. police intervention) to stop it.

In an already unsafe and therefore unattractive city to visitors and prospective new residents, all we get are excuses and unviable solutions.

Jerry Cothran, Baltimore

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