A squeegee man or squeegee woman, squeegee kid (Canada), squeegee punk (Montreal), squeegee merchant (London) or squeegee bandit is a person who, washcloth and squeegee in hand, wipes windshields of cars stopped in traffic and then solicits money from drivers.
In Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg they are known as squeegee kids and they were mostly tolerated, since they were considered to be working for money, rather than begging. In Montreal they are often called squeegee punks, in reference to their appearance, or simply squeegees. In 1999 the Ontario government passed the Safe Streets Act, outlawing squeegee kids and aggressive public begging. Squeegee kids have become scarce on Toronto and Vancouver curbsides, as police frequently stop them and check their identities for outstanding arrest warrants.
In 2011, Deputy Mayor of Toronto Doug Holyday told the Toronto Sun that there was the will in council to step up action against panhandlers, including squeegee kids; the proposition was mocked by some media, given the previous efforts, and the suggestion that the homeless would have to pay fines. A few days later, on June 7, a man was reportedly attacked with a squeegee by a 23-year-old at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue. The alleged attacker was charged, and the driver admitted to hospital, to deal with the gash.
Londoners, and perhaps others, extend the appellation to include those who roam in the midst of stopped traffic to not only wash windscreens, but also hawk items such as roses and newspapers. For this reason, they are sometimes called squeegee merchants.
New York City
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In New York City in the 1980s, the usual procedure would involve groups of squeegee men surrounding cars stopped in traffic. Although some merely provided a service, in other cases the windshield-washing would be carried out without asking, often perfunctorily, and with subsequent demands for payment, sometimes with added threats of smashing the car's windshield if their demands were not met. Upon his election, mayor Rudy Giuliani famously embarked on a crusade against squeegee men as part of his quality-of-life campaign, claiming that their near-ubiquitous presence created an environment of disorder that encouraged more serious crime to flourish. Squeegee men disappeared from city streets during Giuliani's mayoralty and have yet to reappear in significant numbers. (In his book Leadership, Giuliani explained that his method of removing the squeegee men from the street involved arresting them. Patrolmen who first made the arrests saw that the squeegee men were released immediately, because according to the New York penal code at the time, cleaning someone's windshield was not illegal. Giuliani told the officers that if they saw any more squeegee men they should simply arrest them for jaywalking.)
- "squeegee". The Chambers Dictionary. Allied Publisher. 1998. p. 1605. ISBN 978-81-86062-25-8. Retrieved 2011-10-13. "squeegee bandit[:] a person who approaches vehicles when they are stopped in traffic and cleans their windscreens, usu unsolicited and with aggressive demands for payment."
- Jacquie Charlton. "A comedy of infractions". Montreal Mirror. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
- "Squeegee". YouTube (in French). Retrieved 2007-09-25. Video of squeegee punks in the streets of Montreal.
- Levy, Sue-Ann (1 June 2011). "Buddy can you spare a crime". Toronto Sun (Toronto ON). Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- McGrath, John Michael (3 June 2011). "Doug Holyday wants to fight panhandling—also, party—like it’s 1999". Toronto Life (Toronto ON). Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- "Squeegee attack spurs assault charges". CBC.ca (Toronto ON). 7 June 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- Kevin Drum, America's Real Criminal Element: Lead January/February 2013 Issue, "", visited 8 Jan 2013
- Wayne Barrett. "Giuliani's Legacy: Taking Credit For Things He Didn't Do". Gotham Gazette.