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A street vendor sells his pie on Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

The Port-of-Spain City Corporation (POSCC) is moving to register street vendors operating in St James within the next month and will introduce a similar exercise for persons in Port-of-Spain shortly thereafter.

Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez said the new process will ensure a structure is in place to regulate vending in and outside of the capital.

Admitting illegal and unregulated street vending had gotten out of hand over the years, he described the issue as a “bug bear for the City.”

Speaking on CNC 3’s The Morning Brew yesterday, Martinez said although he understands the proliferation of street vendors within recent times, it cannot be allowed to continue.

He added, “I understand that times are difficult and that vending is a product of difficult economies, but when it gets out of hand, it becomes a problem.”

Acknowledging the financial hardships citizens and foreigners alike were currently facing, the Mayor said while difficult times encourage people to do things differently, it was still no excuse to break the law.

He said, “Some people may not have wanted to end up being a vendor but due to the circumstances, they have to make a living and they find whatever possible means they can without having to turn to crime to be able to sustain their families, so I empathize with them.”

Elaborating about the revitalisation plan for Port-of-Spain, Martinez said, “You can’t build a capital city with chaos.”

“You have to at some stage, manage the situation. It’s not as if we don’t want want vendors. We have structured the Charlotte Street vendors and we have allowed them to have a contract to feel a sense of independence and purpose.”

The registration form is currently being formulated for the St James vendors and will be revised before it is presented to vendors in POS.

Following the registration, vendors’ carts will be inspected by the corportation’s Health Division and a certificate issued.

Martinez is hoping to achieve a medium where police officers will not have to spend their days going after illegal vendors, having to move carts and go to court as it is a poor use of police resources.

Revealing how some of these street vendors had been operating, Martinez said attempts to relocate some vendors to mini-vending malls had not worked out as they had returned to already established spots, where they had already built up a familiar clientele.

He said with new vendors now entering the mix, the authorities could not allow the current situation to continue.

Meanwhile, he said it was important that both vendors and customers adhere to the COVID-19 public health regulations, “if we want to be a society where our people are alive and well.”

Martinez warned police officers would continue to remove persons who obstruct the pavements and roadways.

Refusing to be identified yesterday, a 30-year-old vendor along Prince Street commended the plan to register roadside vendors.

However, he said, “The mayor can’t move everybody and put them in one spot because where he wants to put us is a high risk area on South Key.”

Explaining that he had already established a regular customer base, the vendor added, “Not everyone has a government work and this is the only means of income for many who have to pay rent, pay bills and mind children.”

He said he was not against paying a registration fee and also ensuring that maintenance and sanitation work was carried out.

A second man who also declined to be named said they were against the plan as it meant moving many of them from near their homes which was convenient and safer for them.

Following a police exercise in the capital on the weekend, four people were arrested and charged for illegal vending.

Among them was a 36-year-old woman who was granted $1,500 bail after being charged with unlawful pitch of a stall, offer for sale marketable commodities, and wilful obstruction.

She is expected to appear before a Port-of-Spain magistrate on February 4.

The Maraval woman was arrested by officers of the Port-of-Spain City Police on February 1, who were on foot patrol along Charlotte Street.