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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 — , and city officials are listening.

On Wednesday, said he met with the mayor, 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 , 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."

christine August 02, 2012 at 10:21 AM
Why the hell do the children need to get tagging permits and these guys can just collect money on an as needed basis! Speaking of being a perpetuater of bad behavior Lets talk about 56 Margin st The Life Bridge, drunks and druggies use this address to obtain free money each month which enables them to carry on with drugs and alcohol our Government is the worst when it comes to enabling addicts!
dd August 02, 2012 at 10:43 AM
speaking of perpetuating bad behavior. you can go for a walk in this city on a saturday morning without some high school sports program begging for money in front of every coffee shop. is panhandling a course taught at salem high? how about the city designate a panhandling zone (maybe a area on the common), so parents & interested parties can donate money without being a pain in the neck for businesses or just the locals going out for a morning walk?
christine August 02, 2012 at 10:52 AM
dd Agreed, Although I don't think they are agressive, I don't have children I just noticed they apply for permits to do it Lets talk about 56 Margin st The Life Bridge, drunks and druggies use this address to obtain free money each month which enables them to carry on with drugs and alcohol our Government is the worst when it comes to enabling addicts!
Cindy Johnson August 02, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Teach people not to "perpetuate bad behavior" with a public education campaign like the ones that have been successful in other cities.
SuzannM August 02, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I am just curious how does Lifebridge give money to their "residents" to buy drugs and alcohol Lifebridge is a sober facility meaning they cant stay there if they are intoxicated or using ? It makes sense that they would need to support this initiative of their residents to handle the the problems currently. Isnt the goal of a homeless shelter should be to help people to get out of the situation there in, and not just a place to sleep. Is this a disability check they receive or something through being there? Getting sober, getting gainfully employed and living on their own. Do they hold AA meetings there to deal with the causes of being homeless? My office is in downtown and what I have noticed is that it is the same cast of characters who are asking for money, the guy with the motorized wheelchair is very agressive and the another man who also is in a wheelchair. I used to give money to both of them but stopped because they are both so rude and dont have the common courtesy to say hello, before they make their demand. They both must receive aid to live on. The hispanic gentlemen spends his earnings on lottery tickets, so I heard. So coming to the conclusion giving money is not helping their situation.
SuzannM August 02, 2012 at 12:38 PM
And on the note of the kids "panhanding for sports , I hate this practice, and think the sports programs should be fully funded. If they need to raise money (for whatever reason, ) they should to do a car wash in the square or another activity with a service product rather than asking for money. Its a really bad precedent to set. I feel so bad for the kids standing outside of starbucks or on the street corners with their buckets.
christine August 02, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Life Bridge doesn't give the money They allow people to use that address so they can receive Government money However they don't allow them to sleep at the shelter because of there alcohol or drug problem. You must have a home address to receive free benefits. Therefore life bridge and the government are enablers to perpetuating bad behavior.
Aubry Bracco (Editor) August 02, 2012 at 01:29 PM
To clarify -- as far as the chief's comment about giving to Lifebridge or contacting the city, he's suggesting that as a way to ensure money is going to the right place.
Timothy Donovan August 02, 2012 at 01:31 PM
I work in Boston where agressive panhandling is part of the daily urban scene. I admit, I've become very callous towards these individuals when they shake their coin-cans at me or when they ask me for money outright. It disturbs me that my hometown is now facing the same problem, but honestly, a simple, firm "NO!" really might be the best way to deal with this. By giving them money all we are doing is enabling this behavior and providing them with a means to feed their addictions.
SuzannM August 02, 2012 at 01:49 PM
It is an SSI check social security or disability. I wonder if they refused to let people use the address unless the agreed to a commitment to sobriety. I don't understand the enabling situation of government either that gives disability to addicts who are using. I guess this failure in the system that allows these checks, to trickle down and enable the user with funds to perpetuate the addiction and their abuse.
chester suchecki August 02, 2012 at 02:32 PM
panhandling to some on a disability check is a tax free side job. it keeps you busy and you can act like a jerk all day with a fat pocket at night.
chester suchecki August 02, 2012 at 02:40 PM
google 60 minutes panhandling. they did a segment a while back and is very enlightnig about the subject.
Dawn Cerbone August 02, 2012 at 03:48 PM
The government is going to stop sending paper checks very soon. What are they gonna do then? Become a bank to disperse the payments?
john August 02, 2012 at 05:21 PM
It sounds like the way to stop panhandlers,in certain areas, is by issuing no trespass orders.I am not sure of the process but if I owned a store I would be looking into it.As for the issue at Walgreens I would, at least ,ask the T to move the bus stop to someplace else.If you have noticed the bank next door has an armed guard outside.If you make it hard enough on these people they will eventualy give up and move on.Salem has been going pretty easy on them for years.For some protective custody is nothing more than a good nites sleep.
Liz August 02, 2012 at 06:22 PM
DD - agreed on the high school sports programs. What ever happened to bake sales? ... wouldn't be surprised if those were illegal these days too, though.
john August 02, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I hate it when the drunk, smelly,rude Salem athletes politely ask you if you would like to support Salem sports.You sound ridiculous. How about we stop this practice and either end school sports or raise our taxes. Lets punish the sports programs so that they can end up on the streets with nothing else to do!! Unreal.
Mike Goodwin August 02, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I would expect that all types of panhandling will soon be obsolete, (If not already), unless the beggars get those debit card swipe units. I never carry cash and most people are going that route. My answer to everyone outside of stop and shop and in downtown Salem is always a truthful, "I don't have any cash".
Mike Goodwin August 02, 2012 at 08:36 PM
And I don't know what reforms deval patrick has succeeded in blocking, but EBT cards should not be able to be used for alcohol and cigarettes. Imagine, our tax dollars are paying for programs to end smoking while our tax dollars are also buying cigarettes for people who won't work.
Keep Salem Trashy! August 02, 2012 at 11:32 PM
cranky pants ....though I agree- car washes and bake sales are much better
monumentchild August 02, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Does the mean that "give me a dolla" guy in the wheelchair may stop harrassing people in the lower lafayette neighborhood?
Jack Carver August 03, 2012 at 01:38 AM
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge. “Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again. “And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?” “They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.” “The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge. “Both very busy, sir.” “Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
ken August 03, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Look if you people don't have the intestinal fortitude to look at them and say "sorry, not today" or a "no" with a hard look to the more aggressive ones, that's your problem. Maybe you need an assertiveness training class rather than complaining anonymously about kids canning for school events.
Letty C August 11, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Lifebridge? BS. "transitional housing?". I want to see statistics of how many in their program actually succeed in getting clean, sober, a job, and move on to being a contributing member of society. Google sex offenders. See how many are listed at 56 Margin St. and the surrounding "transitional" apartments. Right in front of the High St. Playground, across the street from The Phoenix School, etc. I live in this neighborhood, and have watched the crowd disperse after breakfast, head over to Quality Liquors or Steve's. Some get picked up in pimped up rides and head off.
Letty C August 11, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Additionally, Last summer I was unemployed, and my benefits were being contested. I had absolutely no income for five months. I sat for hours at the Dept. of Transitional Assistance on Congress Street. Aside from the fact that many times I was just about the only person (employees included) to whom English was not my second language, I was treated rudely, at times waited for hours only to hear that I didn't fill in the correct form, needed to speak to a different person (but that person wasn't in that day), and finally told that because I was a single white woman with no dependents and had a car (a 2003 that I owed 5k still on and couldn't use because I didn't have money to put gas in it), that I could not qualify for any cash assistance! I did qualify for food stamps, which I was grateful for, but at times had to trade groceries for cash to buy toilet paper! No lie! Our system needs a complete overhaul, I used to be so supportive and politically correct toward people who were "unfortunate" enough to need assistance until I was needing assistance and didn't know how to work the system well enough! I was blessed to find a job and win my unemployment claim. However, now I am working two jobs, many hours, and still barely make ends meet. I'm considering becoming a panhandler so I can work less and make more. Could anyone spare a dollar for the train? My friend's car broke down and I'm stuck in Salem.

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