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Church State Issues

With panhandlers, police officers must walk a fine line

Mar 9, 2014

Arizona Republic

Our government masters don't seem to be honoring the First Amendment, and are arresting beggars who use their First Amendment right to run them out of town!!!!!

If the First Amendment can be flushed down the toilet to run homeless folks out of town, it can also be flushed down the toilet to discriminate against religious groups our government masters don't like.

With panhandlers, police officers must walk a fine line

By Matthew Casey The Arizona Republic-12 News, Breaking News Team Sat Mar 8, 2014 9:24 PM

Exhaust puffed from two lanes of idling vehicles on Loop 101’s Union Hills Drive exit ramp as northbound motorists waited for a green light.

Dressed in an open camouflage jacket, a white Grateful Dead T-shirt and black pants, Mike Matthews stood on the corner holding a cardboard sign that read, “Ride Safe.”

This Glendale area is the 47-year-old’s favorite West Valley spot to panhandle, and it didn’t take long to see why.

The tinted window of a black Nissan sedan slid down. An arm sheathed in a hot-pink sweater emerged, holding a folded $10 bill. Matthews, who said he is homeless, walked over, took the money and chatted with the driver before traffic began to move. “I try not to wear out my welcome,” Matthews said after he returned to the corner where he has stood, off and on, for a decade. “I spend a few days here, and then I’ll go down to Chandler.”

While they don’t have exact numbers, Glendale police and some motorists say there are anecdotal signs that the number of people begging in public is increasing in the northern part of the city, which partially borders Peoria.

Police departments Valley-wide are navigating how to balance public-safety concerns about panhandling with free-speech rights after a federal judge in Arizona struck down a state law prohibiting panhandling last fall.

On Wednesday, the Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill that limits some aggressive forms of begging, such as asking for money near ATMs or bus stops, or following people after they say no. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Advocates for panhandlers urge the public and police to show compassion to people in need. They also worry that some police efforts to address panhandling could affect free-expression rights.

Generally, panhandlers are people who ask for money. Law enforcement and homeless advocates stress that not all panhandlers are homeless and many homeless people are not panhandlers.

The rise in panhandlers has led to more trash being left at intersections, near roadways and in parks, said Officer Tracey Breeden, spokeswoman for the Glendale Police Department.

A core group of officers patrols the area where begging is more common, and the first questions officers ask panhandlers is how they can help, Jacinto said. Typically, Peoria police officers tackle panhandling case by case, Jacinto said.

Since last year’s ruling against the Arizona law, there have been meetings within the Peoria Police Department to prepare an action plan for dealing with panhandlers, she added.