Occupational Licensing

Orlando Authorities Battling the Scourge of Unlicensed Barbering

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Thank goodness someone is getting these people off the streets.

As many as 14 armed Orange County deputies, including narcotics agents, stormed Strictly Skillz barbershop during business hours on a Saturday in August, handcuffing barbers in front of customers during a busy back-to-school weekend.

It was just one of a series of unprecedented raid-style inspections the Orange County Sheriff's Office recently conducted with a state regulating agency, targeting several predominantly black- and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Pine Hills area.

In "sweeps" on Aug. 21 and Sept. 17 targeting at least nine shops, deputies arrested 37 people — the majority charged with "barbering without a license," a misdemeanor that state records show only three other people have been jailed in Florida in the past 10 years.

The operations were conducted without warrants, under the authority of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation inspectors, who can enter salons at will. Deputies said they found evidence of illegal activity, including guns, drugs and gambling. However, records show that during the two sweeps, and a smaller one in October, just three people were charged with anything other than a licensing violation.

The "without warrants" part is probably key, here. The authorities clearly suspected that the shops are doing more than cutting hair.

Barbers and witnesses at several shops told the Orlando Sentinel that deputies shouted and cursed during the raids, demanding the location of illegal drugs, which they searched for extensively. They never found more than misdemeanor amounts of marijuana at eight of the nine shops they raided.

The lone exception: Just Blaze on Semoran Boulevard in Apopka, where an arrest report shows deputies found Ski Joseph Vasquez, 40, with "2 baggies of cocaine in a prescription bottle" and cutting agents in the barbershop's office during the Sept. 17 sweep. Vasquez was arrested on drug- and gun-related charges after deputies said they found a handgun in his car.

On the same day, deputies raided two other barbershops and found no illegal activity other than unlicensed barbering. 

By conducting the raids and searches under the guise of a regulatory inspection, they get around the need for a search warrant.