RENO, Nev. (AP) - The Reno City Council is seeking solutions to deal with what police and business owners are calling an increase
in aggressive panhandling.
Reno Police Chief Mike Poehlman has been asked to present options to the council for making the downtown safer before the start of the summer tourism season.
Police said they have received complaints about panhandlers blocking sidewalks, cursing people and making repeated requests for money.
Deanne Mayo, assistant manager at Wild West Souvenirs, said the
problem has worsened since last summer and she gets asked for spare
change six or seven times a day when she goes outside.
Mayo said she recognizes 20 familiar faces day after day, and all of the store's employees have been given pepper spray so they can safely get to work.
Police chased down a panhandler Sunday near Fitzgeralds Casino
Hotel after Scot Quigley called for help, claiming the man spit on
him after he refused to give him any money.
Quigley, a self-employed Reno man, decided not to press charges
and police let the man go.
"They are going to lose all the tourist trade because of these guys," Quigley told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "They act like you have to give them something. It's robbery."
Among other proposals, the council will consider whether to establish street boxes where donations can be made to homeless programs, not panhandlers.
The council also will consider posting signs and distributing pamphlets discouraging tourists from donating to panhandlers.
Mayor Bob Cashell said he wants to hear all options before favoring any particular approach.
Panhandler Thomas Hogan, 46, of Reno, expressed displeasure when
told that the council wants to make the practice more difficult.
"That's not the American way. Everybody has freedom," Hogan said, adding he makes enough to keep ahead on his motel rent and $300 was his biggest day.
The ACLU of Nevada has threatened to sue if the council decides to privatize the sidewalks on Virginia Street so store owners can chase off panhandlers.
Information from: Ely Times, http://www.elynews.com
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)