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Salem Officials Take Aim at 'Agressive Pandhandling'

Salem city officials are hoping to pass an ordinance that might help them crack down on local panhandlers, the Salem News is reporting.

Salem city officials are hoping to put a stop to panhandlers who aggressively approach locals for money, according to an item published in The Salem News.

Salem City Council members are currently considering an ordinance that will be aimed at curbing the activity, which Police Chief Paul Tucker told the Salem News is a widespread issue.

The ordinance would reportedly keep local panhandlers from approaching people near ATMs and from being able to walk up to vehicles that are stopped at red lights. Each offense would carry a maximum fine of $50.

Have you been accosted in Salem by a panhandler looking for money?

Where do you run into aggressive panhandling on your walk through the city?

Let us know in the comments section below.

William Legault February 21, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Hello again gene. I did get a tag from the FD during their last MS drive. I am not saying any of the panhandlers are affluent. I am saying that most of them, on a given day may have more money in their pocket than you do. I think of the one gentleman who when he is not panhandling is scratching large pile of lottery tickets, and not of the $1 or $2 variety. If you can show me one panhandler who is supporting a family, or actually staving of starvation through his/her efforts I'll buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice. No solution is perfect, and this one is no exception.
William Legault February 21, 2013 at 05:17 PM
I hear you on this one.
Diane Wolf February 21, 2013 at 05:37 PM
I've had great success in simply saying "no" to the rude and belligerent panhandlers. I've also called the police on behalf of my fellow citizens when I see them being harassed. There is one man, in a motorized wheelchair, who targets young women as they park their cars - he blocks them in and won't let them out; forcing confrontation or a donation. To me, it's a sad act of desperation, but to others (who aren't totally darn fed up with this guys tactics) it can be downright scary. As someone who works near Klop Alley and Walgreens I see this bad behavior almost daily - not only by homeless people, but by punks, scam-artists and drug addicts (oh, and one prostitute). I suggest that SOMETHING is better than NOTHING. Even if they are unable to pay the fine, the proposed ordinance should act as a deterrent - and I'm pretty sure that is the objective. Don't want to pay the fine? Don't act aggressively. One could still panhandle, an activity protected by the First Amendment, but do so without intimidation or scare tactics.
Meg Elizabeth February 21, 2013 at 05:59 PM
I do not feel that the act of fining is going to solve the problem. In conjunction with other actions, this MIGHT. It would be helpful to know what other steps (if any) would be put in action along with this. If none, then this just feels silly. What research has been done to propose this suggestion? Has it been successful elsewhere? What have other cities done to stop aggressive panhandling? These meters have been brought up before, but I think they are a great idea and should be considered: http://www.atlantadowntown.com/initiatives/stop-panhandling/redirect-giving
William Legault February 21, 2013 at 06:06 PM
The proposed ordnance is based on similar ones passed in Everett and Worcester. The reason it was sent to committee was to allow more time to research those, and other ordnances passed in other communities to include one soon to be enacted in Boston. There is still ample time for feedback from the public. Except for the few who post here or in the SNEWS I will say that 90% of the feedback I have gotten from the public has been in favor of this. Since most council members don't usually follow this or other message boards I would suggest you contact them via telephone or email. I will sign off now and let the flow goes where it goes.
john February 21, 2013 at 06:09 PM
It is no secret that Salem supports the shelter. How can we say yes to the shelter and no to panhandling? People have a right to try to survive by any reasonable means.Salem is spinnig out of control.Fines for this,fines for not shoveling. What right does a city have to create a law that violates my freedom? Why do I not have the right to politely ask a person for something,regardless of what it is? If I am not doing something that is already illegal then deal with the real issue and not something that is a result of the real issue.
Diane Wolf February 21, 2013 at 06:13 PM
John, 'politely' is the key word here. The proposed ordinance isn't against panhandling, it is against AGGRESSIVE panhandling. You should totally be able to ask a person for something politely, and chances are they would give it to you too. :-)
Meg Elizabeth February 21, 2013 at 06:13 PM
I should have clicked on the link for the SNEWS, much more info there. I am not so strongly opposed after reading more. The devil is in the details - of the missing details as it were.
john February 21, 2013 at 06:21 PM
The ordinance is actually pretty specific with regard to areas a person can't panhandle even politely.
Susan Major February 21, 2013 at 06:37 PM
From the Salem News: The following would be prohibited: Panhandling to people in a vehicle in traffic or stopped on a public street Panhandling to a person on public transportation Panhandling within 15 feet of an ATM Panhandling on private property, unless allowed by the property owner Coming within 3 feet of a person to panhandle, unless the person indicates that they want to make a donation Panhandling by intentionally "obstructing the path" of a person or vehicle Panhandling by intentionally blocking an entrance or exit to a building Panhandling to anyone under 16 Following a person that walks away from a panhandler, intending to intimidate them Using "profane or abusive language" during panhandling, or following a refusal."
Susan Major February 21, 2013 at 06:47 PM
I've always given money to panhandlers who are friendly and ask politely. I was on a first-name basis with several panhandlers when I worked in Boston. We used to have interesting conversations about life in general. That said, I'm not at all happy with someone approaching my car or trying to block my path. Maybe it's because I lived in two major US cities and those kinds of actions definitely meant trouble. In Salem I give aggressive folks a firm "no" because it feels invasive and sometimes a little threatening. Ditto on anyone approaching me to ask for money after seeing me leave an ATM.
Carolyn Costain February 21, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Diane I was approached by "what sounds like " that same guy in a wheelchair at Walgreens on Derby st. I don't go to that Walgreen any more, ever since encountering that guy.
Bill February 21, 2013 at 07:28 PM
You know what would be great - if they used actual pans, like in the old days - hence, panhandling. That would be a sight for sore eyes. This sounds like one of Obama's big pronouncements - big talk, probably no action. It does seem silly to fine a bum $50.
Carolyn Costain February 21, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Bill, the pan comment was not that funny unless the politicians asking for money used them to. It is really sad, when you realize that some of the panhandlers are veterans that served our country to "protect" the very same people, that find them so annoying.
Jacqueline Wilkins February 21, 2013 at 08:39 PM
One day I was going for some coffee and a muffin in Salem. I had five dollars to my name. A man in a wheelchair approached me and said "I'm hungry can you give me some money?" I replied i only have $5.00 ...I can buy you a muffin. He said " I need $5.00" I said I only have $5.00 but I can buy you a muffin. I went into the shop bought a small (instead of my intended medium) coffee and two muffins instead of one. The last of my money spent I came out and looked for the man begging for money for food. When I found him down the street I walked up and held out the muffin and said here you go sir...he said "I want a sub!" and refused the offering . I was shocked and appalled. As someone who has been poor, homeless and hungry as a youth, I personally think that panhandlers should be restricted from harassing citizens for money and fines should be implemented. I've been where "they" are and know that there are resources available to lift them out of their present circumstances. Some don't want help and some truly don't need it. As a mom I get nervous when men come up to my car window (or worse my children's!) and try to get money from me. I'm grateful for the attempt by the council to rectify the situation. Being poor is not an excuse for bad manners.
Sparechange February 21, 2013 at 08:43 PM
A fine is certainly something, although I would offer it amounts to little more than placing a finger in a leaky dam. A true solution to the problem would be to stop chasing the federal and state dollars that accompany the less fortunate in exchange for facilities such as Lifebridge. That would take some actual thought, however, as to how to build a sustainable local economy devoid of government handouts - not our fine Mayor's strongpoint. In fact, if you removed her embarassing pandering to the feds and her questionable relationship with a certain somerville-based developer, I'm not sure little Kimmy would have much of an economic plan at all. Long story short, there's no such thing as free money and the Mayor has decided that the check and her continued employment, cemented by her campaign warchest to which the aforementioned developer is a contributor, is of more value than providing a safe, healthy and vibrant community for those individuals who actually contribute to it.
ACG February 21, 2013 at 08:47 PM
If everyone stopped giving them money they would move along eventually. I like the idea of placing re-purposed parking meters in the areas where they are currently panhandling. (see link below) Some of them are beginning to get very aggressive. Actually following you and cussing at you because you did not give them any money. If you really want to make them angry buy them a sandwich and try to hand it to them. Most will flat out refuse it. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-05-29/features/os-parking-meters-donations-homeless-20110529_1_parking-meters-panhandlers-donation-stations
ACG February 21, 2013 at 08:51 PM
PS....Any attempt at enforcement by SPD of an ordinance enacted by the council will probably lead to a costly lawsuit brought on by the ACLU. The ACLU belives that panhandling is a form of free speech. http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/01/04/1751426/aclu-panhandling-rules-risk-lawsuits.html
John Merrett February 21, 2013 at 10:14 PM
How do you differentiate between "aggressive" panhandling, or "passive" panhandling?,...tone of voice?, hand gestures?When should a fine be issued? ,...will the homeless ever pay the fines? Stay tuned
john February 21, 2013 at 10:48 PM
This a complete waist of time. How could a judge possibly force a person without money to pay a fine?
Edward February 22, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Diane - I admire you for calling SPD if you see that individual in the wheelchair harassing others. I have never encountered him, maybe because I hardly ever go downtown anymore... I think perhaps that individual needs some face time in front of a judge. The police should arrest him (wheelchair or not) and bring him up on harassment charges. If he, in his wheelchair, actually prevents or blocks someone from leaving a parking space, I don't see why the kidnapping statutes wouldn't apply, since he would be holding them against their will...
john February 22, 2013 at 01:08 AM
It sounds like the guy who has both a physical and mental disabilty. He always says the same thing "can you help me please" and then he just sits there.He has done it to me many times and I simply wave him away.
KlassySalem February 22, 2013 at 01:40 AM
You know, that's a really, really good question. You'd think it would have to.
adrienne February 22, 2013 at 03:11 AM
that was a great comment, Jacqueline! I work in the catering industry. More times that I can count, I have been leaving an event & walking to the T in Boston & have been approached by panhandlers. "No! I haven't got a dime to my name but I just got off work and I have....delicious Salmon, really tasty Filet, 1/2 a dozen cupcakes!" One night, a guy took my food offering. He then screamed & threw the food at me! Never again.
chester suchecki February 22, 2013 at 10:56 PM
make them pay taxes on what they take in every day.
William Laforme (Editor) February 23, 2013 at 04:27 AM
They also need to focus on the Essex Street pedestrian mall. The little clowns down there at any given dinner rush on a pleasant weekend night think they're so slick claiming they forgot their train money and talking your ear off or whatever, and they're instead just so sad. They only come back because people actually give them money.
Carolyn Costain February 23, 2013 at 04:41 AM
I really feel bad for homeless people But there was one homeless woman years back that still baffles me. She use to push a shopping cart with all her belongings all around Salem. She eventually passed away and when police searched her belongings to find out who she was or next of kin, they found thousands and thousands of dollars in her cart. "It boggles the mind."
William Legault February 23, 2013 at 04:16 PM
Her name was Catherine if I remember correctly. She used to like to sit in Starbucks and on occasion her state of mind would allow for actual conversation. She had a place to live on Lafayette St. next to Strega and liked to wear evening gowns on hot summer days. I never knew her to panhandle.
Carolyn Costain February 23, 2013 at 04:52 PM
William, "many" years back, I worked with the elderly and encountered her so many times "you may be right? When I would see her and talk to her "I don't think she asked for money " I think back then, I just felt so sorry for her, that I would just hand her a few dollars to buy something to eat. I never knew she had a place to live? One winter I even tracked her down near the court house and gave her a couple of warn blankets.
Timothy Camire February 24, 2013 at 08:57 PM
I gave that guy $5 once several years ago, and I've reminded him of it each time he's asked me since. His mistake was saying he wanted to borrow $5 because he was hungry. So, when he asks me or anyone near me now I remind him again of the loan he owes me. He wasn't hungry, he just wanted a larger offering than 37 cents. More to the point of the proposed law, I've seen some people who will block your way, grab your shoulder, or follow you around when looking for money. I hope there's a legal way to cut down on some of that. I think this is what the city is trying to do.

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