Thirteen touts arrested near Route 42 bus park
Touting is big business, better pay than conductors By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
February 23, 2002

Thirteen persons believed to be mini-bus touts are currently in police custody at the Brickdam Police Station after they were arrested yesterday in the vicinity of the Route 42 bus park for soliciting passengers.

The exercise yesterday was aimed at reducing the harassment and molestation of commuters and pedestrians in and around the numerous mini-bus parks and stops in the city, a police press release stated.

Yesterday Stabroek News spoke to a police source and it was revealed that the detained men, who are regular touts at the Georgetown/Timehri bus park, were in the habit of approaching commuters and grabbing their bags even before they indicated their willingness to travel and while some would willingly comply, others were sometimes forced to take evasive action.

Touting, which has become a lucrative business in the city is very prevalent at the Linden, Berbice and East Coast bus parks. The men would normally assemble at around 9 am every day at the parks and as mini-buses enter the park one would attach himself saying: "me deh hay, me deh hay" (I am here). He would then enter into an oral contract with the mini-bus operator, mostly the conductor, who would decide on his remuneration.

Having bargained for his pay he would commence his touting. This includes checking at all of the corners looking for passengers. As soon as he spots a likely commuter, he would rush to him/her grabbing at the travellers' bags and holding their hands. Some touts even hug commuters, much to their annoyance as touts after being in the sun for a while, are usually soaked with sweat and have an unpleasant odour.

A regular tout would earn as much as $1,500 per bus working at the Linden or Berbice bus parks and those who are not so seasoned would be paid $1,000. At the East Coast Park many of the touts working there would earn as much as $100 for filling a bus and many of them would fill more than 30 buses per day. There is also an informal association among the touts.

A 'tout boss' would be contracted by the mini-bus operators to fill their buses. When the 'tout boss' gets such a contract he would then employ his men assigning each one to at least two buses.

After the touts would have completed filling the buses they would then receive their pay from the 'tout boss'.

Most commuters find touts a nuisance. Their bullying aggravates and they would verbally abuse commuters, who refuse to be manhandled by them. At times these actions have been perpetrated in the full view of police officers.

Some touts work as late as 11 pm each day. Speaking to some of them Stabroek News was informed that touting was more profitable than being a bus conductor. One tout said that on a daily basis he could earn as much as $5,000 before 8 pm. He said that he usually worked to fill the `cork balls' (older buses) which at times found it difficult to get passengers. He said that when he worked as a conductor he would earn as little as $1,500 per day and when business was not bright he would sometimes take home less.

There are often fights and quarrels among the touting men, because of the competition. There are also incidents where the mini-bus operators would not pay the touts. At such times, the touts would attempt to puncture the bus's wheels or threaten to assault them.

Meanwhile, Police Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent David Ramnarine, said that any commuter who has been harassed or abused by touts had the right to make an official complaint to the nearest police station or police officer. He also said the men who are currently detained would likely be released soon on station bail and would be charged later.