Salem Police Chief Endorses Crackdown on Aggressive Panhandling
The Salem Police Department is backing a recently-proposed ordinance aimed at curbing aggressive panhandling in Salem.
Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker said he understands why a recently-proposed ordinance that would have local officers issuing $50 tickets to people begging for change may seem strange to some.
Panhandling, the physical act of asking someone else for money, is an activity that is protected by the US Constitution - so Tucker made sure to point out that people have the right to ask.
"What they don't have a right to do is ask in a violent, tumultuous or belligerent way," Tucker said. "They don't have the right to impede somebody from walking or come up to their car or act in a hostile manner. That's not a protected activity."
Tucker said the majority of the panhandlers in Salem don't ask people for money in an aggressive manner and indicated that local officers would be out looking for those who have been identified as repeat offenders.
The most recent incident occurred at 1:45 p.m. Thursday, when police responded to a report of aggressive panhandling in front of the Starbucks on Washington Street.
A woman reportedly told responding officers that a man with a long beard in a motorized wheelchair scooter was in front of the shop "aggressively panhandling customers coming in and out of the store," according to the police log.
"Clearly we've had issues all across the city," Tucker said. "We have instances where people are physically intimidating others into giving them money."
So what should you do if you run into an aggressive panhandler in downtown Salem? Tucker said the best thing you can do is take out your cell phone and call the police.
"We rely on the public to let us know," Tucker said. "If we can do something better downtown to make people feel safe and to curb this aggressive panhandling, we're going to put all of our resources into it."
Where do you run into aggressive panhandling on your walk through Salem?
Let us know in the comments section below.