The Christchurch City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to ban washers by giving police the power to enforce an existing by-law prohibiting window washing for financial gain.
With the passing of the by-law, a licence would be needed to operate as a windscreen washer and the mainly teenage washers could be charged with trading in a public place without a licence, for which the maximum fine was $20,000.
The decision provided police with another tool to combat the activity, Canterbury police district prevention manager inspector Richard Bruce said.
But he said police were concerned that windscreen washers were putting not only themselves at risk, but also other road users.
Police have released CCTV images of window washers to the media, in order to show how their behaviour is putting themselves and others at risk.
He said police were assessing how the council’s decision could be used as part of the prevention activities being used by police.
Police have previously said there was evidence of gang involvement with members demanding payment from the washers in return for being allowed to operate on certain street corners.
As well as three or four window washers on the street, there were sometimes up to 15 or 20 associates and while the washers might not be behaving in a disorderly way, police said their presence could be intimidating.
Before the vote, councillor Yani Johanson said he had previously failed to appreciate the impact the teenagers were having.
“It wasn’t until the police came to our community board and actually showed us the video footage of what was happening at these intersections that I understood how frightening it is for people to be intimidated.”
Councillors said they hoped motorists would now be able to drive around the city without fear of being intimidated by window washers at busy intersections.
So that won’t work either then. As a nation we’re the best at making laws, but when it comes to enforcement, people simply assume the existence of a law will be sufficient.
I hope for the people of Christchurch that police will be enforcing this law at all. There is no evidence of it happening in Auckland.
After all, it is very easy to justify it as a low-priority item, so unless there is actual intimidation, assault, damage to property or endangering the public, I suspect the police really do have better things to do, and we want them to be doing them.