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Reno Police : Money better spent giving to shelters, not panhandlers

By Carla O'Day
Published: Last Updated on

downtown-reno (9 of 13)By Carla O’Day

Police Chief Jason Soto addressed local panhandling laws during a presentation Wednesday to the Reno City Council and said more needs to be done to educate the public on how dollars could be better spent.

Reno Municipal Code says it’s lawful to solicit in a non-aggressive manner and to passively stand, sit and engage people with signs. However, sitting or lying on sidewalks downtown isn’t permitted.

Unlawful activity includes soliciting within 20 feet of a doorway, driveway, bank, automatic teller machine, bus stop, taxicab stand or public restroom. Obstructing vehicle traffic and soliciting rides is also not allowed. Additionally, following, touching, blocking one’s path, using profane or abusive language and continuing to solicit after one refuses isn’t permitted.

Coucilwoman Neoma Jardon

Coucilwoman Neoma Jardon

It’s also illegal to solicit occupants of vehicles on public property, such as freeway exits. However, such laws can be challenging to enforce and don’t apply to private property.

“I see this, the contribution from occupant of vehicle, almost on a daily basis,” Councilwoman Neoma Jardon said. “Is this one of those situations where there’s not enough manpower to enforce?”

“Activity tends to cease when you drive up in a patrol car,” Soto said.

Jardon said some people who solicit aren’t needy.

Jardon said she recently watched a woman for 45 minutes soliciting donations from motorists in the parking lot at Whole Foods in South Reno. Jardon said she watched because something didn’t seem quite right, since the woman’s demeanor didn’t resemble that of any homeless people she’s visited at the shelter.

After lunch hour, Jardon said the woman got into her new car, counted her money and then drove to another area of the lot and picked up a woman in a wheelchair, also soliciting. The woman in the wheelchair then stood up and helped load the chair into the car.

Jardon then followed the car to Costco, where the duo set up shop and again began soliciting. Mayor Hillary Schieve acknowledged the woman in the wheelchair had been spotted near her business.

People might feel good if they help an individual but dollars go further if donating to entities, such as shelters or food banks, which help homeless people, Soto said. For instance, Soto said donating to an individual might help the person get through part of their day, but donating the same amount to an entity would likely help five or six people.

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