‘We are the victims’ - Street side windshield wipers say they are innocent despite barrage of complaints from mainly female motorists
He has dreams of becoming an airline pilot, but until then, 14-year-old 'Snuss' helps his family to survive by cleaning windshields at the Portia Simpson Miller Square in St Andrew.
Last Thursday, Snuss, the youngest of those offering to clean motorists' windshields in the square, told The Sunday Gleaner that he had skipped school for the day because his mother was at the hospital having a baby.
According to Snuss, he usually leaves his Majesty Gardens house on weekends, when he makes up to $3,000 on a good day.
He was adamant that he was not among those who are aggressive to motorists, particularly the females, who have related horror stories of their clashes with these windshield wipers who can be found offering their services at several stop lights in the Corporate Area.
Few bad apples
Fellow windshield wiper, 'Indian', was quick to support his young friend, as he told our news team that it was just a few bad apples causing motorists to give all of them a bad name.
According to Indian, they are generally a peaceful group who are oftentimes the subject of abuse.
"How we fi go to somebody and a look something and a get ignorant first, that nah go happen. You a go look something from somebody a them a go get ignorant first," said Indian, who has five children depending on him.
"Me might see a girl and she look good, and me might just want give her a free wipe, but she just feel like say we definitely want money but a through she look nice in a the car we would a go over and say, 'Pretty girl, respect ...,' so she think a money but a through the car dirty we would a give her a little wash," added Indian.
It was a similar claim from windshield wipers at the intersection of Waterloo and Hope roads outside the historic Devon House. There 'Mean Boss' said he has been wiping windshields for five years after not finishing secondary school, and using the money he gets from motorists to support his two daughters.
According to Mean Boss, it is usually the female drivers who are the problem, not them.
"Nobody nah abuse them, a dem too aggressive. When them wake up a morning time, it coming like say a hell them wake up because by the time you put little water pon the car and them say them don't have any money, we still a try fi give them a wipe. But when them turn on the wiper and make it stay so and a splash water in a the youth dem face and dem thing deh, that no nice," said Mean Boss.
He pointed to a finger on his left hand which he said was fractured when a woman turned on her wiper while he tried to clean her glass.
Mean Boss scoffed at the explanation that many cars have a sensor which triggers the wiper once the windshield gets wet.
"A she dweet cuz me just barely put some water pon her car and say, 'Good evening Miss, you want a wipe'. She fi just say no, me nuh want no wipe and mek me assist her and take off back the water," he argued.
But the women tell a different story. One female motorist last week told The Sunday Gleaner that she was threatened with rape and death after her car automatically turned on the wiper after the windshield was wet by one of the men outside Devon House.
"I saw the face of the devil as he draped his body over the bonnet and threatened me," said the woman, who added that she was a nervous wreck for all of the day.
Another female recounted how she tried frantically to close her window as one of the windshield wipers sprayed the water from his bottle into her face because she refused his offer to wipe her car glass.
"Something must be done about them. I had to change my route to avoid Devon House, and I try my best not to drive through Portia Simpson Miller Square because I am afraid of them," said yet another female motorist.
But head of the Police Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, seemed to admit defeat as he told The Sunday Gleaner that the issue has been addressed numerous times but the windshield wipers keep coming back.
"When you arrest them and they are taken to the courts they might be sentenced to 10 days or so, then they are back in the zone," said Allen.
Under the proposed new Police Service Act, members of the police force could be given the power to arrest without warrant with respect to aggressive begging, aggressive vending, loitering and intimidation of individuals, to assist in curbing street crimes such as loader men at transport centres and windshield wipers.
That change could be welcomed by Allen, who argued that, "A lot of the windshield wipers live on the streets, so that's why it is required that all the critical agencies be on board to see how best we can address these youngsters," added Allen.
He said most times the motorists who are abused by these windshield wipers are not willing to give a statement to the police, and this is one of the challenges they are having.
"In the meantime, in speaking with the divisional officers, we will see the whole aspect as part of our regular patrol along that particular (Devon Road) corridor," said Allen.
Acting Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake has also argued that it needs more than policing to deal with the windshield wipers.
"Where are the parents of these little boys who are out there? With the best crime plan in the world, you are going to have these social issues which are putting these children into the crime pool and into gangs. The best police force in the world will not be able to get the desired results," added Blake, as he addressed Gleaner editors and reporters last Thursday.