Wed | Jun 26, 2019

Jaevion Nelson | Wiping out windscreen wipers?

Published:Saturday | May 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM

We have a tendency to look to the police to solve the social ills that we had ignored for several years until they became a complete bane of our existence. What a predicament wi find wiself in, though?

The incident in Liguanea about a week ago in which a police officer allegedly shot a woman while aiming at young windscreen wiper sparked much debate about what we must do as a society.

Most of the suggested interventions point to the police. At what point will we realise that it is not the police's duty, nor do they have the capacity to address the problems we have with windscreen wipers at our traffic lights?

Note, the purpose of this piece is not to perpetuate the debate about the actual shooting. I am cognisant of the concerns regarding the almost deafening silence about the actual incident. However, I am more interested in the discussion about addressing the problems with the windscreen wipers. I am confident the authorities will treat with that matter appropriately.

It is pertinent that we accept that there ought to be a multifaceted intervention to deal with the challenges being experienced by motorists in the capital city with the young men who are at the traffic lights cleaning our windscreens. However, we cannot reasonably look to the police to lead such an effort, nor can our desired intervention simply be to lock them up. The police's role is actually minimal.

In a recent interview on Beyond the Headlines, Senior Superintendent of Police Calvin Allen made that clear. He highlighted that their intervention is largely limited to making an arrest under sections 28 and 26(9) of the Main Road Act, which deal with obstruction and free passage of traffic. The fine is $4.


Collective action


The problems we face require collective action on the part of a wide cross section of state actors, including those from the Child Development Agency who drive past children who are living and working on the streets despite their obligations under the Child Care and Protection Act. We need to have research, accountability, and tailored programmes to get them off the streets.

Research is required to better understand the issues, including what caused them to be on the streets doing this work, how long they have been doing it, why are they still there, where they were before they started working at traffic lights, reasons for the way in which they treat motorists, and what would get them off the street.

Accountability is also critical. Citizens have to make reports to the police (social media isn't an actual report), and the police must respond whenever they receive these reports. Impunity should not be encouraged. This cannot be the basis of our intervention to this issue, though.

We need tailored interventions that are specific to their needs and desires. The young men need opportunities so they can fulfil their dreams like the rest of us. We mustn't allow the numbers to grow. I note there are now some children at the traffic lights at Devon House working at nights.

We can't keep looking to the police to solve our social ills. This is an issue that has come about because of collective negligence, including those with responsibility for these matters ignoring their obligations. We have to work on the socio-economic and other issues that caused our young men to be at the traffic lights across the country in the first place. Importantly, we need to demand that our political leaders take action to address the problem immediately.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to and