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Baltimore business community searches for solutions to perennial squeegee problem

Baltimore business community searches for solutions to perennial squeegee problem

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A young man washes a windshield as motorists wait at a red light on Oct. 23, 2018, in Baltimore. The squeegee workers have been a long-time irritant to downtown business owners, and a fatal confrontation last week has only heightened that anxiety. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

After a confrontation between young squeegee workers and an irate motorist ended in deadly gunfire, the Baltimore business community is once again searching for ways to stop kids, teens and young adults offering to clean motorists’ windshields in exchange for cash or, in some cases, funds sent through 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 unappealing to tourists, employees and customers alike.

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

A list of individuals who participated in the meeting was not made publicly available, but the group, known as the Squeegee Collaborative, is being 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 “develop(ing) a comprehensive strategy, discuss(ing) resource allocation as well as the policy and system changes needed to sustain viable alternatives to squeegeeing.”

Squeegee workers aren’t a new issue 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 security throughout the downtown area.

“This is something that has been in Baltimore for decades and while it is not new and not a new problem, it will require some new and different strategies if we are going to solve what has been a long-standing challenge for us all,” Scott said at a Thursday press conference.

Late last year, the mayor and his administration put out a 90-day plan for addressing squeegee workers. The plan recommended that, among other things, the city increase engagement and outreach with squeegee workers, hire staff to ensure the safety of the youths and motorists and provide youths with stipends for working other day jobs in the city

Sharon Schreiber, chief operating officer for the Greater Baltimore Committee, a business association in the city, said that evaluating the success of that plan should be a key step stakeholders take as they begin devising solutions.

“As part of a broader discussion with business and other leaders, we should review the plan’s success. Working together, we can come up with new action steps to further address the issue for the long-term,” she told The Daily Record via email.

While Schreiber noted that could not quantify the effect squeegee workers have had on downtown Baltimore businesses, she noted that crime in general continues to be a major concern of the city’s businesses. Crime has been cited as a reason many businesses are moving out of the Central Business District or leaving Baltimore altogether.

“The primary impact we can speak to is the continued deep concern of the GBC and its board about the wide accessibility of guns in the city, the high incidence of gun-related crime, and the perception, right or wrong, among some employers and employees that the city is not safe. The GBC continues to maintain 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 advancements in the city’s strategy for addressing squeegee workers.

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

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

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

According to police, investigators took the suspect and his father to the homicide section to be interviewed by detectives before he was taken to be charged with first-degree murder.

The Baltimore Sun reported on Wednesday that a dashboard camera video of last Thursday’s shooting showed what appeared to be the teen shooting at 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 driving through an intersection near the city’s Inner Harbor when he had a heated interaction with squeegee workers, parked his car and came back with a baseball bat, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said earlier this week.

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

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

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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