Notes from the presentation by Officer Karl Wolfswinkel:
Points to ponder:
Aggressive Panhandling is illegal
Being a public nuisance is illegal (offensive materials, trash, etc.)
Panhandling within city limits is not illegal
Who has the right to move someone along?
Business representatives (e.g. Office Manager of the church; owner of a small business; Manager at the grocery store) can call police and request that an individual(s) be trespassed or removed
What should I do…as a business representative or as a resident passing by someone on the street?
Treat them like you would anyone else—establish eye contact; greet; go about your business
Food for thought–would you approach anyone else on the street and ask them about their day? Maybe so…maybe not. Bottom line–personal safety should always be considered
Personal safety considerations:
NEVER—give a stranger in need a ride, allow them into your home, or provide personal identifying information (home address, etc.)
RARELY, if ever—give out money; instead, provide food items or personal items (clothing) to eliminate the potential for the money to be used for something you might not agree with or don’t want to contribute to
ALWAYS approach strangers in a safe manner with personal safety in mind; be aware of your surroundings
ALWAYS—use your instincts
* Note: most police encounters with panhandlers and/or transients are a result of a 911 call. Police officers will contact a transient person if they are breaking the law. A recent example is one of our officers contacting a male sleeping in the skate park on R Avenue outside of open park hours. It was illegal for him to be there. He probably would have just been moved along, but he made things more difficult for himself by ignoring officer commands; fighting; and unlawfully possessing a prescription drug not prescribed to him resulting in his incarceration.
This illustrates how police engage this population—we will if they are breaking the law. Most encounters you do not hear about, because it’s not illegal to be homeless or a panhandler.
Do you want to help someone in need?
Consider a financial gift or volunteering with an organization with the staff, training, experience, and safety protocols in place that provides the safest environment possible to serve the needs of our community. Involvement with this type of organization may put you in direct contact with the transient population but perhaps in a more structured, team environment with safeguards in place to protect everyone involved.