One day after police said two squeegee workers attacked two officers, resulting in minor injuries, an official detailed how the city is working to “eradicate” the practice of washing windows for money and engage the young people who perform the work on city streets.
Tisha Edwards, the director of Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s recently launched Office of Children and Family Success, said at a press conference Wednesday morning the city has engaged more than 80 squeegee workers since September and found jobs for 15 and gotten 34 to return to school.
“We have a long-term strategy around supporting young people, removing the barriers to employment, helping them to address personal situations that are driving them to the corner,” said Edwards, who previously worked as chief of staff for former Mayor Catherine Pugh and as the interim CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.
According to the police incident report from Tuesday, police were dispatched to the 3100 block of Hollins Ferry Road at approximately 5:56 p.m. to respond to “a squeegee disturbance.” Officer Centeno Rivera approached a young man, referred to in the report as “John Doe,” and told him repeatedly to get out of the street and stop disturbing drivers.
The report notes “John Doe” was wearing a shirt that said “F— 12,” another way of saying “f— the police.”
Rivera said he asked “John Doe” to leave multiple times, and when the man didn’t comply, he asked for ID to issue a citation. “John Doe” refused. According to the report, Rivera recalled saying “I need you to stop” eight to 10 times to de-escalate the situation.
Rivera then attempted to arrest “John Doe,” who fought back, according the report, twisting the officer’s left arm and biting him on the right hand and forearm.
A second man, referred to as “Jim Doe,” then grabbed Rivera. Maj. Mark Howe and another officer moved in to assist with the arrest. The bites broke the skin, and Rivera later said he had a bruised lower lip and pain in both his hands. Howe was reportedly elbowed in the eye.
Both of the squeegee workers were taken to the Southern District police office for questioning and were later transported to Central Booking.
At today’s press conference Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said department brass reviewed body-worn camera footage of the arrest and found that it corroborated the incident report.
“Thankfully they were only minor injuries,” he said. “But [police] were doing what they were supposed to do and being where they were supposed be yesterday. I feel confident of that.”
Harrison emphasized the video shows the arrestees were not “kids” but “adults.”
While stressing that police would not tolerate assaults, especially of police officers, Harrison said the number of such incidents from window washers is “very, very minor” and that the thousands of people who drive around the city should feel safe as police monitor the situation.
Police have stationed officers at corners that are popular for squeegeeing, an effort that Harrison said is carried out in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success to help provide information about jobs, education and other resources.
“It’s about community engagement,” he said, and finding “more productive ways” for the young people to make money.
Edwards said her office has also hired six new mentors and has enlisted 20 men from the Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement to speak with the window washers.
Business leaders, who have often complained about the workers–the Downtown Partnership hired private security in November 2018 to monitor their activities–have been in conversations with city officials but have not yet provided financial support for the outreach program, Edwards said.
As Edwards noted, and multiple stories on the subject have documented, young people have tried to make money washing the windows of cars for decades. But their presence in the last several years has attracted a fresh round of attention. So have a few high-profile incidents, including a video showing one worker attacking a driver who got out of his truck, and another where police said a motorist’s gun went off during a confrontation.
Fox 45 interviewed a squeegee worker after the latter incident who said the woman pulled the gun out on the group of window washers.
“I’m not trying to get in trouble,” one young man told Baltimore Fishbowl in November 2018. “I can make some money washing windows. At least I’m out here doing something that helps people, not just asking for a handout.”
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