What are street bums good for?

This officer’s views are typical of law enforcement officials who work in Maquis Park.  Namely, street hustlers are a potential threat to public space, but there is little chance of removing them from the community altogether.  Thus, officers must employ an alternate strategy – other than outright removal, one grounded in a quid pro quo wherein the police tolerate some street hustling while using the street traders to gather information on crimes.  In this manner, street hustlers along West Street have developed a symbiotic relationship both with merchants and with the police.  All three have an interest in maintaining accessible public spaces suitable for pedestrian traffic.  So, the parties have developed ways of working with one another to ensure that their personal needs are met.

That is from Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor.  Here is my previous post on the book.


Comments for this post are closed