A scene outside a cafe on Dien Bien Phu Street in Hanoi. The ward police station is a few doors away.
The Hanoi police deputy chief has threatened to demote or transfer ward police heads if they continue to allow vehicles, shops, and restaurants to encroach on roads and sidewalks.
Colonel Hoang Cao Thang told news website VnExpress that the problem was getting "very complicated" and if it is "not resolved, people are likely to have no space to move during the Lunar New Year shopping season [in February]."
There is a conspiracy between the encroaching shops and local police officers, he said.
Beer shops in O Cho Dua ward in Dong Da District have been encroaching for nearly 10 years, with their tables and customers' vehicles taking over the entire sidewalk and even part of the road.
"Some vehicles are even parked in the police station of the ward nearby," he said.
Tea shops in Nga Tu So ward in the same district also have around 1,000 people seated around bridges and their vehicles parked on the road.
After easing off for a while because of heavy fines slapped by the police, many have returned to their old ways, he said.
There are nights when the police impose fines of VND700 million (US$33,600) in all and VND25-30 million on individual shops, but even that has not acted as a deterrent, he said.
So the police have decided to make police officers accountable, he said.
"The blame will lie with the ward police chief, who can be removed from their position or transferred when a certain shop keeps encroaching."
Nguyen Xuan Tan, deputy director of the city Department of Transport, said the situation has been getting worse since "police officers are slow and lenient in their punishment."
Few officers are seen at the worst affected areas, he added.
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