A trapito ready to take your money. Photo via mendozapost.com

Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Cristian Ritondo announced today the provincial government plans to “eradicate all trapitos and policemen who are part of those illegal circuits.” The initiative comes up after news of a 26-year old man getting violently punched by a trapito for refusing to pay to have his car not vandalized  “looked after” made national headlines.

Trapitos,  from the word trapo meaning “cleaning rag,” are people who offer to help you park your car on the street for a small (and sometimes not so small) fee, which is illegal. Trapitos often work as part of larger networks. For example, in sporting events, they work for leaders of different Barra bravas, hooligans, who are the ones who really end up profiting from the illegal activity.

Ritondo went on to highlight the need to sanction a provincial law — or at least establish a unified criteria in all of the province’s 135 districts — that puts an end to the activity and said he intends on talking to the mayors since there are some that allow and even regulate trapitos’ activity.

Moreover, he explained that two bills have already been sent to the provincial Congress but have yet to be debated.

To enforce this, the minister said he’s planning on using the “zero trapitos” policy carried out by the city of Pinamar’s Mayor Martín Yeza (you know, that guy who live-tweeted the precarious state in which he found the district property when he took office) and extending it to the entire province.

“Yesterday we arrested nine trapitos who had warrants out for their arrest in the area surrounding nightclubs.”

The situation is not new nor does it only apply to Buenos Aires Province, as the City of Buenos Aires has also failed to tackle the trapitos issue. During his time as Buenos Aires City lawmaker, Ritondo sponsored a bill to prohibit trapitos, but the initiative never saw the light of day. In fact, during last year’s presidential debate between now President Mauricio Macri and then-candidate Daniel Scioli, Scioli called out Macri on his inability to get rid of trapitos during his time as Buenos Aires City Mayor. “If you still haven’t been able to solve the issue of trapitos, do you really thing the people will believe that you can solve the drug trafficking problem?” Scioli said back then.

According to Clarín, a report by the City’s Prosecutors’ Office informed that 9.5 complaints about trapitos’ illegal activity were registered in the city every single day over the past year. That’s 3,464 reports in a year, for all of you math geniuses out there.

Article 79 of the City’s code of misdemeanors calls for an AR$200 to 400 fine or up to two days’ arrest for anyone who “demands a fee for the parking or the surveillance of vehicles in the public way without legal authorization.”

However, the article says, it’s extremely difficult to do anything about these complaints because it’s practically impossible to prove trapitos demanded a fee for “taking care” of your car and didn’t just ask for a tip to do so (which wouldn’t be illegal.)

Trapitos are mostly present in areas surrounding bars, clubs or wherever the nightlife is (I don’t know where the cool kids with their long hair and their rock and roll music do for fun nowadays), and especially in events that gather a lot of people like football matches and concerts. They can charge up to AR$ 50, even more for large-scale events.