[Hpn] Modesto, CA - Getting tough on panhandling - Modesto Bee - July 3, 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Sun, 07 Jul 2002 17:41:11 -0500

Getting tough on panhandling
Stanislaus County modeled its ordinance after Los Angeles County

By MELANIE TURNER - Modesto Bee - July 3, 2002

By early August, people panhandling in some parts of Stanislaus County could be

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an ordinance, 3-0, that aims at
cracking down on people asking for money or jobs, or selling things, on public
streets, highways and private parking lots.

The measure would not apply within the county's nine cities, though county
officials hope those governments will adopt similar ordinances. Tuesday,
spokespeople for the two largest cities said nothing is in the works.

Tuesday, Supervisors Paul Caruso, Thomas Mayfield and Ray Simon voted in favor
of the county ordinance. Supervisors Pat Paul and Nick Blom were absent.

The board could give final approval July 9; the ordinance would take effect 30
days later.

County officials hope to prevent people from being bothered by those asking for
money or jobs outside businesses or at intersections. They say the problem has
gotten worse, and complaints are up.

People sitting or standing and holding signs can distract motorists, and
sometimes people feel intimidated, County Counsel Mick Krausnick said.

"When you are sitting at a light, you are a captive audience," Assistant County
Counsel John Doering said. "You have no ability to get away."

Doering said he does not expect many fines to be issued since panhandlers will
be warned and informed of possible citations.

A first offense will costs $100, a second offense, $200, and a third offense
comes with the maximum penalty -- $400.

"It's getting to be more of a concern with the public," Caruso said.

Lots of people choose to be homeless, he said, but they should not put
themselves or others in harm's way.

Just Sunday, he said, he was driving home after dark and saw a woman sitting on
a curb panhandling.

"I've seen them hold up traffic," he said. "It's starting to proliferate all

The biggest concentration of panhandlers is along Highway 99 interchanges near
Salida, Ceres and on into Turlock, Doering said. The county also gets complaints
about panhandlers outside businesses, such as at the shopping center Caruso owns
on Crows Landing Road.

More and more cities and counties are banning panhandling, Krausnick said.

Stanislaus County modeled its ordinance after Los Angeles County. That ordinance
has held up to court challenges, he said.

In May, Manteca adopted an ordinance prohibiting "aggressive panhandling." But,
Krausnick said, an ordinance like Manteca's could lead to enforcement problems
since the panhandler would have to be caught in the "aggressive" act --
approaching someone -- or a witness would have to bring him in to be cited.

Moving the problem

Officials acknowledged it's possible panhandlers could move into cities, such as
Modesto or Turlock, where there are no regulations. But they hope the cities
will create ordinances of their own.

Modesto is researching the possibility, but won't act until a couple of related
court cases are heard in Los Angeles, said Doug Ridenour, spokesman for the
Modesto Police Department.

"It appears there is still a question of whether or not it's constitutionally
protected," he said.

In Turlock, police public affairs officer Rosemary Howser said the city has its
share of panhandlers, but it's not become an issue for people there.

"Honestly, we don't have a lot of people panhandling in Turlock, certainly not
to the extent that Modesto has," she said.

Under the county plan, organizations such as the Girl Scouts still could sell in
private parking lots with the owner's approval. Events such as Kids' Day, where
people sell a special edition of The Bee on street corners to raise money for
The Salvation Army, would need to get permits for sales outside cities limits.

Bee staff writer Melanie Turner can be reached at 578-2366 or mturner@modbee.com

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