Turlock police recently gave an update on panhandling in Turlock and are asking for the public’s assistance in helping with enforcement.
“We’ve done our best to try to deal with this through enforcement alone, and will continue to do all of the enforcement activity necessary with the public’s help for those specific sections that are enforceable,” said Turlock Police Captain Steve Williams at the most recent City Council meeting.
According to Williams, the Turlock Police Department faces many roadblocks in enforcing aggressive panhandling in Turlock. Among those are constitutional protections, including free speech.
Loitering and vagrancy have both been deemed unconstitutional and therefore are unenforceable by police.
The Turlock Police Department can deal with the issue of panhandling, however they must work within the law.
In Turlock, there are two municipal codes that relate to panhandling — Code 4-7-904 and 5-26-02.
Code 4-7-904 prohibits pedestrians from standing on an island or median unless it is a temporary stop, such as a stop in a long crosswalk. Panhandling is not an exception in the code, said Williams.
The other code, 5-26-02, is the code that directly addresses “aggressive” solicitation or panhandling. Under the code “no person shall solicit, ask or beg in an aggressive manner in any public place.”
“Aggressive manner” is defined to include intentionally touching or causing physical contact with another person or occupied vehicle, using violent threats or gestures, persistently following or approaching a person, and intentionally blocking safe passage or a person or vehicle before, during, or after solicitation, asking or begging.
There is also a section of the Penal Code, PC 602.1, that can also be enforced on panhandlers. The code prohibits anyone from intentionally interfering with a lawful business. Williams said that this code is very specific, however.
Enforcement, however, is not as easy as simply finding a panhandler to prevent aggressive panhandling. The Turlock Police Department needs assistance from the public to enforce these codes.
Specifically on Municipal Code 5-26-02, Williams said that a witness is needed not only to report, but also to prosecute.
“If you are the victim of aggressive solicitation please call us, please leave your name, please let us contact you, and please cooperate with the investigation so that we can hold the person accountable for what they’ve done,” said Williams.
There are also differences on how police can enforce these codes on private, public, or quasi-public property.
Williams also reiterated what Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson said before the aggressive panhandler municipal code was created: don’t give panhandler money.
“It’s a complex issue, there are a number of reasons why people will panhandle,” said Williams. “… Basically, they panhandle because they can."
“If we could, as a community, maybe take the position to donate that money instead to a cause that is in town instead of to individuals it might encourage those individuals to seek those services that are already established."
United Samaritan's Foundation
Home Community church (offers meals once a month)
And I am sure a lot of other churches offer services as well
Instead of calling the cops right off the bat, perhaps people could be kind enough to treat these individuals like the human beings they are and direct them to the appropriate services. If, at this point, the "panhandler" becomes aggressive or refuses to stop begging for cash, calling the cops would be appropriate.
Believe it or not, most people in poverty are simply victims of circumstance and did not get their by way of personal misdeed. As more privileged individuals, we have a duty to serve them, not oppress them. I acknowledge that there are those who may have substance abuse problems, psychiatric problems, or are just plain lazy / incompetent - however, these are problems that need to be addressed. It does no good to the community to further suppress these individuals.
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 25:15 Greek five talents … two talents … one talent; also throughout this parable; a talent was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wage.
New International Version (NIV)
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Matthew 24Matthew 26