Squeegee bandits

FED UP: Shopkeepers are fed-up with windscreen washers.
FED UP: Shopkeepers are fed-up with windscreen washers.

Shopkeepers near a hot spot for car windscreen washers have a message - put down the squeegee and get off the road.

Latest figures show police received 364 complaints in a year about people washing windscreens at the intersection of Mt Wellington Highway and Penrose Rd.

"It's probably the biggest hotspot for the police in the eastern area," Onehunga Community Policing Team Sergeant Rhys Smith says.

The second biggest in the area covered by the East & Bays Courier is the intersection of Greenlane Rd and Great South Rd which generated 46 complaints.

The practice is getting on the nerves of nearby shopkeepers. Saturday is busiest but the windscreen washers are there all the time, they say.

Retailers see vanloads of kids being dropped off as early as 8am and picked up as late as 7pm. Some look to be as young as 14.

Others are vagrant or drunk.

They'll come into stores to convert money so they can give change to their customers and cause trouble outside the shops.

"It's just a bloody pain, I've had verbal abuse. But my shop ends at the door, outside is a public place so I can't get them to move," Selvin Prakash says.

"On the funnier side, I've seen a husband and wife with a baby in the pram. The wife will sit there while he washes windows."

Another shop owner says safety is a big concern.

"I've seen near misses on the road. I wish they would stop, it's not good, I'd hate to see one of them get hurt."

"Some are good kids and are very polite. It's how they earn their money."

The problem is not new and police have been targeting the area at peak times.

Windscreen washing is even more popular when summer comes, Mr Smith says.

"They generally don't operate on rainy days or after dark."

He says the intersection of Mt Wellington Highway and Penrose Rd is probably so popular because of its proximity to Sylvia Park, the train station and a petrol station where some window washers have been known to steal squeegees and other equipment.

Police have limited powers to deal with the issue.

They can move window washers along and then make a referral to the Auckland Council which can then prosecute offenders under a street trading bylaw.

They can also take action if a member of the public makes a complaint because they feel they've been threatened or intimidated.

"But most people leave because they just want to call and have us clear them off," Mr Smith says.

Some washers appear to be doing well out of the trade.

"Some have a lot of $2 coins which can add up quite quickly."

Drivers can help deter window washers by locking their doors and windows and making it clear they're not interested. They shouldn't feel obliged to pay if the work is done anyway.

The Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw which comes into effect on May 26 aims to give police and council officers more powers to deal with window washers.

East And Bays Courier