Panhandling or Robbery
Each summer, our community experiences a significant increase in transient-related complaints, and this summer is proving no different.
During the summer, we respond to an upsurge in calls for assistance and complaints surrounding quality of life issues like aggressive panhandling, public urination and defecation, large piles of trash, open drug sales and use, felony assaults, and even our most recent murder.
In the last few weeks, these quality of life issues have increased at the Pear Tree and Orchard Plaza shopping centers. In one recent report, we learned that transients are aggressively panhandling near the automatic teller machine (ATM) of the shopping centers.
In fact, a young mother who was alone with her small child was approached and aggressively asked for money. Instinctively, she pulled her small child to her side and handed the transient the money she had just obtained from the ATM so the transient would leave.
In other cases, we hear about transients blocking people from getting in their cars or bothering people while they put groceries in their car until people give the transients money.
While some argue that homeless and transient people have a right to ask for money, I don’t think people should be approached as they walk away from an ATM, especially a young woman with a child who feels she must give money to protect herself and her child.
That’s the definition of a robbery - the taking of property by force or fear. People shouldn’t be robbed while shopping or withdrawing money from their bank accounts at an ATM.
Even though many communities throughout California are trying to find ways to solve homelessness and transient-related problems, the solutions to these problems remain elusive.
Here in Ukiah, it would help if people did not give transients handouts and if they called the police when they observed illegal activity.
I understand why kind-hearted people give to those who are less fortunate than themselves, and I applaud that. But if you really want to help our community, many wonderful non-profit organizations could put your dollars to good use helping people who are working hard to get back on their feet.
What’s the best way to handle the transient situation?
First, stop providing handouts. Giving money to transients does not help our community, and it puts you in direct contact with people who may be dangerous. Transients use money to buy alcohol, methamphetamine, or other drugs. The use of alcohol and drugs leads to violence. If transients can’t afford alcohol and drugs, our community would be safer.
Instead, give your donations to the agencies providing direct services to the homeless. This will assure that your dollars are spent on assistance, not alcohol and drugs. These key services include: HOT MEALS (Plowshares, 1346 S. State St.), GROCERIES (UCC Food Bank, 888 N. State St.), and ESSENTIAL SERVICES (Ford Street Project, 139 Ford St).
Second, if you observe illegal activity by transients (or anyone else), please report it to UPD as soon as possible. The Ukiah City Council adopted an ordinance to restrict panhandling, and by reporting this activity – and even making a citizen’s arrest – you help us significantly reduce these types of crimes.
This panhandling ordinance – UCC 6091 – establishes that a person cannot aggressively panhandle in any public place, or panhandle in any fashion within 20 feet of the entrance or exit of a retail store, supermarket, or ATM. A person is also prohibited from approaching a motor vehicle to panhandle on a street, highway, freeway on-ramp or off-ramp, or parking lot.
A first offense is an infraction and a second offense is a misdemeanor, but a police officer must either see the activity first hand or have the assistance of a citizen making a citizen’s arrest to write a citation. By calling and reporting illegal activity, you help us stop this type of illegal behavior – assisting us like this can really make a difference.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.