How Florida criminalizes honest work
Be grateful, Florida, said Christian Britschgi, your local police have saved you from the dangers of unlicensed plumbers and tile-layers. In an extensive undercover sting, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrested 118 handymen for operating without a license. The deputies posed as homeowners to hire the workers, who “would be lured to one of five homes, where undercover deputies filmed them performing or agreeing to perform prohibited tasks like painting or installing recess lighting.” Yes, you heard that right: These criminal masterminds agreed to perform tasks like painting, “preying on innocent homeowners”—the cops’ words—who needed their walls painted. For this they were arrested, booked, and are now potentially subject to a 12-month jail sentence; eight repeat offenders can be charged with a felony. Here’s the way these stings really work: The police frequently hire a handyman “on the pretext of performing work that doesn’t need a license.” Then when the workman gets to the site, the cops badger him to do something else, such as laying tile, that only a licensed contractor can do. And then when the handyman agrees, they nab him. This isn’t about “safeguarding the welfare of consumers,” it’s done to “protect incumbent businesses and government licensing revenue.” And while Florida’s police are entrapping plumbers, real criminals commit real crimes.