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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.

Jared Robinson February 25, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Aggressive Panhandling occurs on one major street and then the streets that feed it: Derby St/New Derby St We ALL know where it happens and it's why I don't shop at certain places downtown or park in some lots. Walgreens is the hub of it and it spreads from there. I actually go to Walgreens on Boston St instead of the one on Derby St to avoid it.
Jack Carver February 25, 2013 at 03:08 PM
How about just enforcing the loitering ordinance. Sec. 24-12. - (a)As used in this section, the term "loitering" shall mean remaining idle in essentially one location and shall include the concepts of spending time idly, loafing or walking about aimlessly and shall also include the colloquial expression "hanging around." (b)No person shall use the Essex Street pedestrian mall (that area extending from New Liberty Street to Town House Square) nor shall any person use the areas located within 50 feet of the outside walls of museum place for any purpose other than the passing to or from museum place or any benches that may be located within such area. Any such benches may be used for sitting purposes only. (c)No person shall loiter in the area located within 50 feet of the outside walls of museum place in such a manner as to: (1)Create or cause to be created a danger of a breach of the peace; (2)Obstruct the free passage of pedestrians or vehicles; (3)Obstruct, molest or interfere with any person lawfully in such area which would have a direct tendency of causing or inducing acts of violence by the person to whom such remarks were made.
Jack Carver February 25, 2013 at 03:08 PM
(d)Whenever any police officer shall, in the exercise of reasonable judgment, decide that the presence of any person in any place is causing or is likely to cause any of the conditions enumerated in subsection (c) of this section, he may, if he deems it necessary for the preservation of the public peace and safety, order that person to leave that place. Any person who shall refuse to leave after being ordered to do so by a police officer shall be guilty of a violation of this section. (e)Any violation of this section shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $100.00. (f)The police department shall be the enforcement authority for this section pursuant to M.G.L.A. c. 272, § 59 (Code 1973, § 16-10.1)
angela February 25, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Outside the atm at sovereign bank on essex st. The same guy in the motorized wheelchair. Who wants some stranger waiting out there for you to come out with your money? It was just getting dark too. I won't go there again.
John Merrett February 25, 2013 at 08:26 PM
All liberals, who "pretend" to have compassion - all they can think of is punishment. Why not put them to work and monitor them?,..try a different approach to people having hard times? There is dignity and self worth in work.
Mary Ann Mac Cabe February 26, 2013 at 03:14 PM
That's interesting considering that five years ago when officer Ruiz expelled some touths that were sitting by the dumpster at Dunkin' Donuts, I was fixing a cup of tea that I'd bought with sugar etc. My name somehow got on the police report even though the officer never talked to me. I was talking to a woman who after that was not seen by me in that area until just recently.
Kim Madrid March 02, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Why don't they have cops walk the sidewalks, not just in those areas all downtown. Maybe it will stop alot of things happening down there, its not just the panhandlers.

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