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CLEANER STREETS - SSP Lewis refocuses on windscreen cleaners

BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor — Auto and Entertainment bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, June 14, 2013    

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A RECENT spike in complaints from the public has forced head of Jamaica Constabulary Force's traffic division, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Radcliffe Lewis, to refocus his attention on windscreen cleaners ('squeegee men') operating at stop lights throughout the Corporate Area.

"We have been getting a lot of calls, especially from female drivers, about these unruly windscreen cleaners," SSP Lewis told Auto.

The top cop said since Monday this week his team has intensified its efforts to get them off the streets.

SSP Lewis said on Wednesday one person was arrested in the vicinity of Devon House and charged with obstructing the normal flow of traffic. Since January, he said a total of 37 people have been arrested on similar charges.

"Some motorists have reported that they have had soap water thrown in their faces while waiting at the traffic lights; some have been spat upon, while others have been verbally abused. Women have lost handbags from their car seats," he said.

SSP Lewis said there have been instances in which sharp implements have been used to scratch vehicles occupied by people who did not respond to the requests of these windscreen cleaners.

"They are pests to women drivers and, in many cases, terrorise them," he said.

The tough-talking cop lists Devon Road, Washington Boulevard and Molynes Road intersections, as well as Three Miles as priority areas for his team.

SSP Lewis said the courts can impose community service or custodial sentences for these offenders.

"Repeat offenders are given custodial sentences," he said.

In October 2010, the top cop had embarked on an ambitious initiative to rid the streets of windscreen cleaners as they were proving to be a nuisance to motorists.

American Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who served from 1991 to 2001, employed a similar strategy as part of his quality-of-life campaign. The New York City mayor said the presence of 'squeegee men' on the streets created an environment of disorder that encouraged more serious crime to flourish. They are yet to return to New York City in significant numbers.

Meanwhile, SSP Lewis admits the Jamaican initiative had been "relaxed" in recent times as he and his team were focused on other projects.

"We were removing illegally parked vehicles from the streets of the Corporate Area, as well as in St Catherine North and South. We have also been working with the Transport Authority," he said.

And as SSP Lewis seeks to introduce new and innovative ways to ease traffic congestion in the capital city, he advised that over the past three weeks he has been leading an initiative along the East King's House Road to Barbican roundabout.

"Between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm, at intervals, we convert that stretch into a two-way road and it has been working very well," he said.

He said motorists proceeding south from Barbican to King's House are stopped to allow for two-way traffic in the opposite direction.

SSP Lewis, who has attributed the reduction in road facilities to the pro-activity of his team, said: "My team and I intend to make life easier for motorists so they can go about their lawful business without any major problems."

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