Playa del Carmen, Q.R. — People who have been charged with minor administrative offenses are now being given an alternative to paying their fine. Rather than forking over money, legal authorities are accepting sargassum collection as a form of payment.
For the past several days, people arrested for administrative offenses in Playa del Carmen have been seen out shoveling seaweed. The detainees have been allowed to change their custodial sentence for community work by aiding in the collection of sargassum on city beaches.
Juan Novelo Zapata, the General Secretary of the City of Playa del Carmen, says the offenders charged are given an option. He says they are not forced to clean, but are given the alternative to serving jail time or paying a fine.
According to municipal authorities, around 33 people have joined the alternative “payment” option since Sunday. The voluntary seaweed collectors have been arrested for minor administrative offenses that include peeing in public, drinking in unauthorized public places, abandoning vehicles on public roads and throwing waste (including dead animals) onto public city property.
On Thursday, a group of men were in the center of Playa del Carmen forking over seaweed from the water to the shore where it is removed from the sand. The offenders participating in the program are supervised during their sargassum shifts, which begins first thing in the morning.