Should Street Windscreen Washers Be Banned?

Should Street Windscreen Washers Be Banned?

Victorian police are cracking down on street windscreen washers who operate on city intersections due to safety concerns, Courier Mail reports. Should these squeegee-totting panhandlers be banned altogether?

Your car is supposed to be a sanctuary — it’s one of the reasons we waste money on petrol, road tolls and general wear-and-tear instead of taking the train or bus to work. However, this privacy is quickly shattered when you approach a red light flanked by guys armed with buckets and squeegees. Tch, eh?

Usually, a simple shake of the head is enough to deter them, but there have been reports of windscreen washers acting aggressively when drivers refuse their services.

“We have had reports of them hitting cars with their squeegees, verbal abuse . . . one of them spat on a car,” Richmond Police Acting Senior Sergeant Mark Alexander told the Courier Mail. “For the older community, they can get really intimidated and it affects their perceptions of safety.”

A $70 fine currently applies for soliciting contributions or employment on the road, but is this enough of a deterrent? We’d like to get your thoughts on windscreen washers: are they something you encounter on roads regularly? Do you find their presence tolerable or deeply annoying? Let us know in the comments section below.

Victoria Police cracking down on illegal street windscreen washers [Courier Mail]


  • Sure, let’s make everything illegal that does no harm but which we don’t like. Seems like the best way to live in a free society.. right? Oh no wait, i’m thinking of the other thing.. North Korea.

    • oh sure lets let people do whatever they want, damage peoples cars, intimidate people, increase risk of accidents for the sake of ‘freedom’. But really, the problem is that very often the people doing this aren’t in a position to be paying any fines they are given, more often these people are in need of assistance than anything else.

      • Agree with the latter point about needing assistance. Most of the time the people are drug addicts on Centrelink looking for money for speed/etc.. Which is the real evil here.

        The former point i’ve never ever experienced.. And i’ve lived and driven in every major city in Australia (more or less). The worst i’ve gotten was an awkward feeling when I told them I didn’t have any cash to pay for a wash they’d done.. To which they literally tipped their cap and went on.

        I can imagine though that if you were like “OH YOU BLOODY VANDAL I NEVER ASKED YOU TO DO THAT” then they may react differently… lol. I just have never seen them even act entitled at all, they know what they do is borderline legally speaking, and that half the time nobody has even requested such services. I’d be more concerned that anyone who did overreact was mentally ill, and about getting them help as you say, not about damaging cars.. Which a mentally ill person would probably be doing anyway, window washing or not.. Unless it’s the water which is the dangerous part lol.

        • Well then you must have encountered the most jovial window washers in Australia. The few that I have interacted with in Perth don’t ask, they just start pouring dirty water on your already clean windscreen and hacking away at it with broken squeegees, then become angry that you don’t want to pay them for a job you never wanted them to do.
          I guess there are two sides to every story but the fact in every case is that they are endangering themselves and others by walking in between cars temporarily stopped at traffic lights, they just plain shouldn’t be there.

          • I’m not so much against banning window washers – as I say, I recognise the types of people and reasons they’re there.. What i’m against is LAWS that enforce BEHAVIOR. Conflicts can, will, and should occur in society..

            Enforcing as a matter of law how someone behaves and how they spend their time, and even to a degree how they make their money [disclaimer; there are obviously legality issues, surprisingly here it’d be welfare income misrepresentation and tax dodging, which could ruin a person] just because a certain percentage of people do not like that behaviour is unacceptable within any kind of scope of freedom, and is an incredibly slippery slope.

            A hyperbolic analogy to this would be recently in my workplace, a movement grew that was against people wearing jeans to work at the office.. It gained some momentum.. And suddenly jeans are banned.. Not the end of the world, right? Since then, hoodies, band tshirts, etc etc have all been banned.. They’re basically turning us into walking, homogeneous chunks of socially acceptable fabric, where ‘socially acceptable’ is defined by those that care the most about it.. Yet, it’s an entirely subjective issue. It makes no difference in practical application whether I can, or can’t wear those items to the office.. Should that prohibit my ability to do it if it’s my choice, as offensive as some may find the action I would myself coin as ‘doing what’s comfortable for me’?

            Long story short; it’s not the governments place in any way shape or form to enforce how people behave unless they can prove that it endangers people and property to a direct cost, to a statistically relevant proportion of people. This might be annoying, but it’s hardly ‘dangerous’. I would thoroughly enjoy receiving some stats about exactly how dangerous they think that is, then comparing that to say, the stats I posted on the recent gizmodo/lifehacker article about how dangerous trampolines are..

            As for those that get angry when you won’t pay, that’s rediculous, but probably as I said previously drug fueled.. They aren’t out there being dicks to people because it’s their day job.. Get them real help, don’t just take away money potentially from their kids mouths, since they’re just going to buy as much meth anyway..

            “Oh I have less money now and a fine from police, I guess ill give all my centrelink towards feeding my 2-3 kids”, said no desperate junkie ever.

          • I think I know those guys, they work on the corner of the Great Eastern and Tonkin Highways right?

            And when I say I know them, I mean I have been harassed by them before

    • “does no harm” eh?
      > striking or vandalising people’s vehicles
      > verbal abuse
      > higher than usual risk of bodily damage to themselves or others, and all the psychological trauma that comes with that
      > road rage or other altered psychological states arising from these encounters which then affect the driver of the vehicle and nearby drivers, likely leading to higher risk of bad driving.
      Admittedly towards the end I am grasping for straws a bit, but it’s a mighty generalisation to call unsolicited hawking of unregistered services in the middle of a road ‘harmless’.

      • LOL Wow. It’s very clear to all of us that you are the victim of a sexual assault at the hands of a window washer. There there. It will be okay. Nobody can squeegee you now unless you want them to.


    • But didn’t you read the article?! It affects old people’s perception of safety.

      The poor dears. We should also outlaw rap music, teenagers, red cars, baseball caps, hoodies and black people.

  • Under the law they are already banned. A $70 fine applies for soliciting contributions or employment on the road.

    If you fine a person $70 every time they try to wash windows at the local intersection they’ll soon give up.

    Increasing the penalty seems premature if the current law is not being enforced. Make it $1000. If you don’t enforce it then it will continue not to deter people.

    This is police chest beating. I don’t blame them as they are under resourced.

    • You’re correct. You could make the sentence a mandatory year in jail or even capital punishment, if the laws are unenforced, or worse, unenforceable, then it doesn’t matter.

  • The problem with a Penalty that is too high usually makes cops never give one ever.

    Imagine 17-18 year old with a $1000 fine. He is either not going to be able to pay OR it will clog up the courts.

    Cops will just issue more and more “Warnings”

    A reasonable fine say $ 100 to $200 whilst large more likely a disincentive than $ 1 000

    • I think the fine is too low considering the effort that’s required to police this.

      You can’t just have a couple of uniformed cops walk over to them and fine them, they’d be long gone before the cops even see them. You need to do “sting” operations with undercover cops, that takes time to organise and money to dedicate staff to.

      It would be pretty hard for police to justify any ongoing action against these people when all they can do is issue them with a $70 fine. That doesn’t look good to the bean counters.

      • In my experience the kind of people washing windscreens for coin are not going to pay ANY fine…

        They are also likely to be on some kind of welfare as well. So you’ll be transferring money from Federal to State coffers with any fine.

        Really want to solve the problem. Fine the people who do the paying. Make it illegal to PAY someone money to clean your windscreen!!

        Ok. That wouldn’t be popular 🙂

      • Given the high fines, the cops know there’s no point in applying the penalty. I can’t be bothered to look up the study, but they found that *reducing* fines for many crimes actually means more tickets are handed out, and more compliance. I believe it was for littering somewhere. The fine was previously $300 or so, and you’d have to be some special kind of arsehole cop to demand $300 from everyone who dropped a cigarette end. They reduced it to $30, cops enforced it, people paid them rather than contesting them, and compliance went up.

  • Try hoddle street and Victoria PDE or hodddle and swan in nelb. They can be right bastards and get aggressive when you say no. They wash it anyway making is dirtier and get angry when you don’t give money.

    Shoot them.

    My 2 cents.

  • “We have had reports of them hitting cars with their squeegees, verbal abuse . . . one of them spat on a car,”

    All of which comes under the offense of “assault”. I wish they’d stop making up laws to pander to public opinion (usually the opinion of a vociferous minority). These laws are unlikely to be enforced if they can’t/don’t even use the already existing laws.

      • Assault is performing an act which makes another person feel threatened and in belief that they are in danger. Battery is the actual physical violence act.

      • Damage to property or vandalism are both criminal offences, at least in WA where I live. They’re not ‘assault’, though the action of committing vandalism to property while a person is in possession of that property will likely trigger the tort of assault, too.

  • I didn’t know that Victoria police had run out of more serious crimes to solve. They must be doing well if chasing window washers is now a priority.

  • I have never ever had any window washer threaten me or behave aggressively. I am very happy to have my windscreen cleaned and I am happy to give them any spare change I have. I’ve never been asked for money. On the one occasion I didn’t have any, the young man cleaned my windscreen even though he knew he wasn’t going to get paid.
    I would much rather see young people helping others and earning extra money, instead of stealing it or sitting around begging for it.
    My only problem is that sometimes they put themselves at risk.

    • I agree with smileythings. I’m sure there are negative incidents but my experience in Canberra has been very positive. There’s a very nice washer in Civic who’s very polite and friendly if you have a chat to him.

      Every service industry has jerks, and in my experience in far greater proportion than windscreen washers.

      Let those who provide a great service be commended. Let those who use violence be brought to justice, by whatever means are necessary and appropriate.

    • When I lived in Brazil, the local guys would treat it like their job. They’d wash your windscreen if it was dirty, they didn’t care if you had no money and would still do a good job, knowing that you’d probably pay next time.

  • I applaud innovation and independence (including from the state, upon which I presume many of these providers are otherwise dependent).

    However it can very annoying, and dangerous. So why not something such as dedicated / authorised areas where these services can be solicited and provided. Perhaps even off road a bit for safety reasons. Instead of running around banning everything, we can say “I can see what you are doing and I encourage self reliance, but you need to go about it in a better way”.

    Nothing wrong with the latter.

    • There is abundance of dedicated car-wash services operating safely off the road, often within view of intersections where the people on the road are operating.

  • Maybe the solution is not to fine people for doing this but to put a little structure around how it’s performed.

    Licence people to do it by providing an accredited training course. Train them on safety (wearing hi vis clothing etc), customer service, cash handling etc. Have course fees that could be low enough for low income earners to pay, or provide free training for people on unemployment benefits.

    Better still, have the local councils provide it as a service employing people who need the money.

    Having legitimate people legally performing this activity would scare off the alleged junkies who are abusive/causing damage.

  • My only concern with that is that ‘permits’ too often become ‘revenue raisers’. I’d be ok with some sort of cost-of-provision permit and training scheme though, as long as it does not penalise attempts to be financially independent. Not sure how you would record incomes for social security reasons though.

  • The aggravate the carp out of me. Im in a hurry to work and the moment I hit that one stop light, here they come. Doesn’t matter if you wave them off or tell them no. They still screw up your once clear winshield making streaky and blurry. Sometimes they only do half your winshield as your yelling no. I feel they should get a regular job like eveyone else who wants to survive in this life. Not beg 24 hours a day. In not giving then my food or gas money. I need it for myself. People know what drugscan do to then yet they still try them, get hooked and can’t keep a job or afford a place. The first thing people say is they need assistance. Yeah ok so we tax payers can pay for the these programs? So what I’m to understand is these dead beats get our money either way? I don’t care if they cant afford a fine. That’s the point. You can’t afford the fine so restrain from doing the crime. I can’t afford traffic tickets so I don’t speed. Simple. I’m not giving then anything!!

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