Thu | Apr 26, 2018

Stop treating vendors as criminals

Published:Sunday | January 13, 2013 | 12:00 AM
A policeman pushes a handcart that was seized from a higgler selling in a no-vending area in downtown Kingston in 2011. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer


The plight of vendors is again in the spotlight as the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) is determined to maintain law and order on the streets of the capital city. In a city that sometimes reeks of sewage, has a tendency for upsurges in violence, and where one has to be constantly watching one's back, who would want to be a vendor downtown? The answer is simple: the vendors are downtown as it is a means of survival.

The resistance to the KSAC's move should come as no surprise. This is because for years the practice of selling on the road was maintained and overlooked, and it would appear that, all of a sudden, the authorities want it to change overnight.

Let us say that all the vendors in the area were to register, where would all of them be located? The vendors have complained that the designated area would not do their business justice. considering the fees that they would have to pay and how they would solicit customers.


Many outsiders would look at it as lawlessness. However, to me, it sounds like an honest way to make two ends meet. I am sure that many of the vendors would love to comply with the directive of the corporation, but one would have to think of the real benefit to be derived from doing that.

Vendors have to be on constant lookout for members of the force who are following orders to take their stuff away. When they go to retrieve the goods, they are often found short. The fear of destruction of property makes many carry their goods in scandal bags or on tarpaulin so that they can easily be moved in the case of danger.

It is hard work, but it is honest work. For some, the alternative would be to rob or defraud, and then we would have a bigger mess on our hands. Many of them are law-abiding citizens who pay bills, taxes, and send children to school

In a country that is suffering from an economic crisis with no end in sight, we should consider the options being given to this small group of people. Some of them, through no fault of their own, did not get the requisite training or education they deserved, and have turned to sales and marketing and have become quite proficient at it.

The KSAC should be more of a big brother than a beast to the vendors. Find out from the big companies about how their businesses are dealing with vendors. Find out if their being there is hindering their business from making money. Outline boundaries with the help of these entities so that vendors know that they should not encroach on certain spaces, instead of just having no-vending zones.

Many of the streets in the area are one way, so allow the vendors to use one side of the street in some areas while leaving the other side for vehicular traffic. Finally, ensure that vendors clean up their work space before leaving.

These vendors create a wealth of opportunity for firms in the area, for they support them by buying their goods in bulk while eating at their restaurants.

If registration and collecting money is at the forefront, the corporation can then charge a fee after consultation and zoning, and give them badges to identify themselves as registered vendors in that area. These badges can be worn so that officers can know they are legitimate. You can then warn the other vendors of stiff penalties if they do not adhere to the new rules or initiative.