Squeegee bandits spark brawl

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2014
MURRAY CHONG

New Plymouth's squeegee bandits strike out in front of New Plymouth District Councillors.

tdn Squeegee Bandits stand
ROBERT CHARLES
Squeegee Bandit hard at work
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LATEST: Two "squeegee bandits", aged 17 and 15, have been charged with a range of offenses after a fight at the intersection of Eliot and Leach streets last night. 

The 17-year-old was charged with common assault, assaulting police, and resisting arrest. 

The 15 year-old was charged with disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence and will be referred to youth aid. 
Senior Sergeant Thomas McIntyre said both had been consuming alcohol.

 
The incident, in which a man was allegedly assaulted, was filmed by New Plymouth District Councillor Murray Chong.


He called for the council to make the car window washing activities illegal as calls to clear them off the streets grow louder. But today council customer and regulatory services Mary-Anne Priest said a new by law would not make any difference in trying to curb the squeegee bandits activities.


"A bylaw would not provide any additional help to the council or the police in dealing with this issue, there is already legal provision in place to deal with this matter.'' 


The council receives three or four complaints a week about the behaviour of window washers at intersections, and more window washers are cropping up this summer. 

"The police are willing to respond to complaints about window washers but both the police and the council think it would be better if the public just made window washing undesirable by not paying up."

While there is no bylaw that bans window washing activities in New Plymouth district, the Road User Rule can be enforced to stop nuisance behaviour, Mrs Priest said.

"People who wash windscreens at intersections are in breach of the Road User Rule, which prohibits people from loitering on the road.

There is also a fine of up to $1,000 for anyone who is prosecuted for offensive, disorderly or threatening behaviour, and people can be arrested for these offences."

Police Area Commander Blair Telford wants the public to speak up if they see any problems occurring.

"If window washers approach your car, or you see them loitering on the road or causing a hazard on the road, or you experience them acting in a way that is offensive or intimidating, please call us straight away on 759 5500.

"We'll endeavour to dispatch a unit to deal with the situation," he said.
In last night's incident, two district councillors, Shaun Biesiek and Mr Chong, both ran to the scene to help.

A man had objected to a windscreen wash and a fight broke out when he pulled over.

Mr Chong videoed the altercation and Mr Biesiek later went to the aid of the police when one of the bandits took exception to being arrested.

The majority of district councillors want to get rid of the bandits, Mr Chong said. 

"A few of us can't believe the process is taking so long in council. We just want to sort it out. I've got one of the guys saying 'I'm allowed to do this because its legal in the NPDC to do it'. Well, we need to make it illegal."

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Mr Biesiek said the incident was not a good look for New Plymouth.

"We just don't want them on our streets at all. The verbal diarrhoea that came out of their mouths . . ."

He had already arranged a meeting for next week with former police officer and councillor Grant Coward and council officers to see what can be done to fix the problem once and for all, he said.

"People are getting more and more annoyed. The district has had enough of these idiots especially with Americarna coming up, and Womad. We need to put a stop to it."

Earlier in the week he had a call from a man who had been abused by some squeegee bandits when he had his wife and children in the car.

"The kids were scared."

All the council can do is put in a bylaw, he said.

"There have been investigations about what's been happening around the country. The police need to step up as well," Mr Biesiek said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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