Did Main Line Cops Crack Down on Shoveling Scofflaws?

Wynnewood resident says yes. Lower Merion spokesperson says there's "an investigation."

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On Tuesday night, as emotions over the blown snow forecast and all the inconveniences it brought began to melt away, a new snow controversy erupted in Lower Merion Township on the stylish Main Line outside of Philadelphia.

Wynnewood resident Deborah Saldaña, a 49-year-old mother and Zumba instructor, posted a message to the Facebook group Lower Merion Community Network. In it, she explains that Lower Merion cops confronted two black kids who were shoveling snow outside her home, and that the cops told her father that anyone who wants to shovel someone else’s property needs to pay the township for a $50 permit. She suspects racial profiling.

Oh, we’ll just let her explain in her own words, via Facebook:

I am annoyed. We hired two kids to shovel our sidewalk. I’m sick, my kid is 10 and he’s been sick too, and my father is old. These were “African American” kids (one is actually Haitian), that have come to our house and shoveled before.

The cops stopped them behind our house (we are on a corner so they were almost done the sidewalk back there) and ran checks on them! They had them sitting down (there were not allowed to get up) for a long line of questioning. My father went out to see what was going on, and the cops said, to “go back in sir, we are conducting an investigation.”

After about 20 minutes the kids continued shoveling. The cops came to the door to tell my father that from now on, “anyone” shoveling in Lower Merion, except if it’s your own property, needs a permit from the township, a $50 permit that has to be valid if they check. We paid the kids and they were okay, a little shaken up.

I wonder if the same would have happened it if was white kids shoveling? I understand Lower Merion’s concern with crime, and somehow I think the landscapers (monopoly) may also have something to do with the permits, since they need permits, and shovel snow in the off season, but I can’t help thinking that it is profiling. I felt sorry for the kids. Earlier I saw the same thing happening near Haverford Ave as I went to the gym, police had 2 black kids that had been shoveling, sitting down in the snow, interrogating them. I think it’s a bit extreme.

By Wednesday morning, Saldaña’s post had elicited more than 200 “likes” and over 550 comments. Many residents were incredulous, others suspicious, and eventually, the whole thing devolved into a messy argument, as they tend to do on community boards on Facebook.

Reached on Wednesday morning, Lower Merion Township spokesperson Thomas Walsh said an investigation into Saldaña’s report had just begun, but assures us that people don’t need permits to shovel sidewalks, steps or driveways for money in the township.

“There was such an unbelievable response to her post,” says Walsh. “That’s the great thing about social media, although it can also be frustrating at times. People see something they care about deeply, and they voice their opinions. The community is coming together and saying very clearly they’re concerned about this. We have to find out what happened.”

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