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City seeks to curb squeegee workers after fatal altercation with bat wielding motorist

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Baltimore city Mayor Brandon Scott attempted to assuage tension between motorists and squeegee gig workers after a man died on Thursday afternoon.

Scott said he wouldn't hesitate to crack down on offenders but prefers to remove windshield washers from the street corners voluntarily.

“If you are on the streets of Baltimore and endanger the safety of others or turn to violence to solve your problems, we will hold you accountable,” Scott said Thursday night in a statement.

The plan to entice more squeegee workers, whose presence has been controversial since the 1980s, off the streets is to offer them jobs. Some motorists fear or become angry with the windshield washers while others support the youth as entrepreneurs and offer spare change for services.

“We are going to continue to keep connecting these young people to jobs and opportunities,” Scott said in a news conference Friday morning.

In November 2021, his office piloted a 90-day squeegee worker outreach plan to encourage otherwise disconnected youth, not in school or stable employment, to take formal jobs. The Baltimore region has roughly 18,000 disconnected youth.

During the pilot program, the city connected with 186 young adults who squeegee in Baltimore. About 43 individuals went back to school and 39 young adults were placed into jobs. More than two dozen individuals secured birth certificates, social security cards and IDs for future employment.

An outreach event at the Reginald Lewis Museum sought to offer 40 positions to former squeegee people on Friday.

Meanwhile, the downtown intersection where a man was fatally shot after he attacked a group of squeegee workers with a baseball bat, sat empty.

Police identified the slain man as 48-year-old Timothy Reynolds of Hampden, a Baltimore neighborhood. His death was homicide No. 186 in Baltimore so far this year.

Hours before the shooting, the Baltimore Police Department arrested an 18-year-old man after allegedly threatening a motorist with a BB gun downtown.

Police said that Reynolds drove through the intersection of Light and Conway Streets downtown, parked his vehicle and got out swinging a baseball bat towards the workers just after 4 p.m. on Thursday.

One of the windshield washers then allegedly pulled out a gun and fired at the driver, wounding him, before fleeing on foot.

Reynolds was transported to a local hospital where he later died.

Scott was bullish that the future of the Baltimore economy won’t require windshield washers. The goal is for the otherwise disconnected youth to have better opportunities but not to just push them aside. Instead, he offered a deal to squeegee workers to walk away.

“We don’t want you to be. I don’t want you to be. I want you to take advantage of every resource that we’re offering you to get off those corners,” he said.

And to motorists, Scott said the city was going to continue working to keep them safe by increasing the number of city officials, African American Male Engagement and the Baltimore Police Department.

The investigation is ongoing.

Bethany Raja is WYPR's City Hall Reporter
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