Baltimore deploys armed guards near "squeegee kids"

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The city of Baltimore still hasn’t managed to work out the issues they are having with the so-called “squeegee kids” who harass drivers at intersections and try to shake them down for money. But there has been enough of an uproar over it that the municipal government clearly felt compelled to at least look like they were trying to do something. So did they clear them from street corners so drivers could commute in peace? Of course not. Perish the thought. They instead hired armed security guards and deployed them to a couple of busy intersections as part of a pilot program. When asked, the Mayor insisted that the guards are there to ensure the safety of both the drivers and the “squeegee kids.” He also said they can’t remove the frequently violent beggers even though there is a municipal law on the books specifically prohibiting these squeegee activities. (Fox News Baltimore)

As tensions continue to rise between elected leaders, community members, motorists and squeegee kids, a new security guard pilot program was quietly rolled out at a high-trafficked intersection downtown.

Mayor Scott has made it clear his administration is looking for ways to protect the safety of squeegee kids and drivers as more and more instances of violent interactions surface. Despite current laws on the books prohibiting the squeegee behavior, Mayor Scott and his team have said squeegeeing is a form of panhandling and it’s protected under the First Amendment.

Monday morning before noon, Baltimore Police Officers responded to the 100 block of President Street for a disorderly conduct call near the intersection of President and Lombard streets, according to an agency spokesperson.

It has become increasingly clear that the new mayor isn’t much better than the last one (if any), though at least he hasn’t been arrested yet. Part of the Mayor’s job is to keep the city’s residents and visitors safe. I realize how laughable that sounds if you are at all familiar with Charm City’s murder rate and gang violence problems. But he’s at least supposed to make an effort and look like he’s trying. Instead, Mayor Scott is ignoring laws that are already on the books designed to deal with this problem and ordering the police to ignore them as well.

As a reminder, the “squeegee kids” who he also refers to as “squeegee workers” are frequently neither. Many of them are 18 or over. And what they are doing is not “work” nor is it a “job.” He admits as much when he explains why he won’t enforce the law. He explicitly referred to them as “panhandlers” and said that their activities are protected speech under the First Amendment. (I know. I don’t think this guy has ever read the Constitution.)

Panhandling is an annoyance. What’s going on far too often on those corners is far more than that. It’s extortion and it frequently turns violent. Just last month one of these “workers” shot a motorist dead. Other incidents of violence are reported on a regular basis.

If the city wants to find productive jobs for these extortionists, fine. Do it elsewhere. Set up some sort of municipal jobs program where they can show up at the morning and be transported to the city’s parks and run-down areas and clean them up. Give them a paycheck and benefits if you can find the money. If that keeps them off the corners and away from the temptation to join the gangs, that would be fantastic. I would applaud the Mayor for such a solution.

But what’s being done here is just a fig leaf. The Mayor is afraid to look like he’s cracking down on these extortionists because most of them are minorities. And they are still engaging in crimes right under the noses of the authorities with the blessings of the city.