FLORENCE, Italy – Florence, Renaissance city of art and history, is trying to clean up its streets by cracking down on squeegee men, saying they were causing "great danger" to drivers and pedestrians alike.
Mayor Leonardo Domenici issued a decree last week to force the squeegee men — people who wash drivers' windshields and demand payment — off the streets, imposing fines and detention of up to three months.
The decree, which is valid through Oct. 30 but can be renewed, alleged the squeegee men were hindering traffic, inconveniencing pedestrians and abusing drivers, particularly women.
While the measure was applauded by some, leftist politicians said Florence was going after the wrong people.
"If there are attacks against people, they have to be stopped," Social Solidarity Minister Paolo Ferrero told Associated Press Television News. "But to consider being a squeegee in itself a crime, it is wrong."
Jean Leonard Touadi, a security adviser for Rome's City Hall, said the problem was real in many big cities. "In very recent time, these people have become very aggressive, mainly with women," Touadi said.
The Florence crackdown was reminiscent of the one championed by former New York City mayor and now presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, whose pursuit of such minor "quality of life" offenders won him acclaim.