Christchurch police are confident a by-law passed today will stop windscreen washers operating at busy intersections after motorists complained of assaults and damage to cars.
The city council today voted unanimously to ban the mostly teenaged washers by giving police the power to enforce an existing by-law prohibiting window washing for financial gain.
Sergeant Todd Webley said the extra powers were welcome. He said he has numerous examples of the teenagers intimidating drivers.
"We've had occasions when vehicles have been spat at - on one occasion we're aware of the back screen of a vehicle being smashed out by one of these window washers, it appears to be for non-payment."
Mr Webley 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.
He said as well as three or four window washers on the street there were sometimes up to 15 or 20 associates. Although they might not behaving in a disorderly way, he said their presence could be intimidating.
Mr Webley said with the passing of the by-law, a licence would be needed to operate as a windscreen washer and the teenagers could be charged with trading in a public place without a licence, for which the maximum fine was $20,000.
But he said police would use their discretion and putting the young people before the courts was a last resort.
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.