Police Chief Takes On Aggressive Panhandling
There are things the police department can do mitigate bad behavior, but panhandling is a protected act, according to Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker.
Aggressive panhandling in Salem — you've expressed your concerns, and city officials are listening.
On Wednesday, Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker said he met with the mayor, Salem Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rinus Oosthoek and the Community Impact Unit to discuss and tackle the issue that's become prevalent downtown and in other areas of the city.
A key to the panhandling issues, according to the police chief, is that there are things the police and the city "can and can't do" when it comes to addressing the issue.
Despite what many may think, panhandling in and of itself "is not illegal," according to Tucker. "It's a protected activity…[per] state and federal case law. People are allowed to ask for money," the chief explained.
But while people are allowed to ask for money "aggressive behavior is something we can do something about," Tucker said.
Tucker said he's spoken with his Community Impact Unit to investigate how other communities have handled aggressive panhandling.
"We know other cities have had an issue," Tucker said, adding that the department is looking at what legal options there are to resolve the issue.
Additionally, Tucker said he's spoken with Oosthoek of the Chamber of Commerce so that the police department "can work with merchants to identify spots" where aggressive panhandling or certain behaviors are a problem so that the department can get a handle on it.
Residents can also help the Salem Police Department and the city get a handle on the problem.
By giving aggressive panhandlers money, Tucker said people "are perpetuating" bad behavior.
If people are looking to help people who are on the streets, they should contact the City or Lifebridge, Tucker said, but they shouldn't be giving people money on the street.
And while there are certain things the police department can't do because the act of panhandling is protected, Tucker said "we're not tolerating bad behavior," and "we're doing everything we can under the law."