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Removal of street merchants

24.02.2015

LAST week, I caught wind of a new story that would probably pique the interest of many a Jo’burg road user. There was rumour of a procedure called, “Operation Clean Sweep” that was supposedly the city flexing its muscles to enforce by-laws that would remove all hawkers from our streets and intersections.

They have a website, http://www.opcleansweep.org and one can even become a supporter. In the wake of the phenomenal response that we received from my piece about hi-jacking, I had to approach this topic because, like it or not, street hawkers and hi-jackers are inexorably linked. The situation got me thinking… would the removal of these sunglass salesmen, window washers and poor quality, child-friendly electronic toy-wielding traffic-light dwellers, perpetuate the situation or improve it?

I have surmised that there are two possible outcomes, should these people be removed from intersections. Firstly, we‘d have a week or two of bliss as we wouldn’t be bombarded with dirty water window-washing, phone chargers, pirated DVDs or, male-enhancing-win-the-lottery-and-a-life pamphlets, as the police would be around to enforce the law - for a while.

Then, after a few weeks, the police would lose interest or be busy doing other police-like things and the hawkers would return. However, should the city clampdown be seriously enforced as they claim to be doing, I foresee a few affordable - yet distasteful - oil-painting dealers being out of a job.

When unemployment hits an already low income person, they either seek new employment, beg, steal or consider other criminal activities and here’s where scenario two plays out. When their field of expertise is under siege i.e. begging or selling at intersections, I can bet they’d use their traffic-light experience to actively smash-and-grab and/or hi-jack even more so.

Even if the pirate DVD-selling merchants aren’t responsible for these attacks, their presence seems to attract more and more of their sort. Not all these people are happy selling a manufacturer-embossed licence-disc holder; some would rather lurk and wait in and amongst the innocent banana/litchi sales representative and strike when you’re stuck in a traffic jam.

The JMPD cracked down on these people with some 44 being removed from the M1 as they feel these people present a threat to us and I’m sure many motorists are uttering things like: “Duh...” or “Finally...” The people who were removed had two options: pay a R300 admission of guilt fine or appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.

These electronic bubble- machine punters really shouldn’t be there; not only is it unsafe for them, it’s very distracting for drivers. I’m happy that these people are being taken away. I mean, I truly hope that they find gainful employment but at the same time I feel that without them there motorists, especially at smash-and-grab hotspots, will feel more at ease.

We already have to drive on treacherous roads, worry about work, children, bills, rising costs and how we’re going to spend our free time. Why should we have to worry about having our cars invaded at a traffic intersection? But what happens when the police stop monitoring these intersections and the bobble-head dog-selling agents come back in their droves?

I’ve seen a group called Londoloza Protection Group, who specialise in patrolling and security. These guys have been seen implementing #antismashngrab teams as many of you may have seen on Twitter and Facebook at some of our most notorious intersections. This security company will set up an anti-smash-and-grab taskforce that not only trims the grass where these laminated-glass-smashing enthusiasts lurk, but also monitor desired intersections.

The problem is that when police grow tired and the private guys have to step in, we have to pay more money to do what our existing resources should be doing.

What’s your view on the current state of hawkers at our intersections? Do you think that by removing these robot pedlars would be removing a nuisance or would it breed more criminals in the face of unemployment? Do you believe these smash-and-grab teams will help the situation, or not?

Article written by Sean Nurse
24.02.2015
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