St. Paul Police Crack Down on Aggressive Panhandling

Updated: 02/10/2014 11:09 PM
Created: 02/10/2014 11:46 AM
By: Jennie Olson

It’s a common sight in the Twin Cities – you’re at a stoplight when someone comes up to you asking for change. Some people will give the person food or money, and some people will just move along.

But what happens when they don’t let you?

St. Paul police are reminding victims of aggressive panhandling to call police because it’s a crime.

A tweet from the St. Paul Police PIO Twitter account on Monday asked victims to call police if they see aggressive panhandling so they can try to stop this kind of behavior. Sgt. Paul Paulos with the St. Paul Police Department said they have seen more aggressive panhandling lately, especially in the downtown area.

"Panhandling for some is a way of survival, but there are enhancing factors that make it a crime," Paulos said. "We just want people to know that we’re aware of the situation."

Those enhancing factors include when the panhandlers stop you from moving from Point A to Point B, Paulos said. Accosting strangers is a petty misdemeanor, but aggressive panhandling becomes a misdemeanor and crime.

"Because it falls under freedom of speech, you have to show that they’re impeding traffic for it to be illegal," Paulos said. It’s also illegal to touch a person without their consent, follow them after they walk away, or block someone’s path.

Paulos added that panhandlers can make up to $25-30 an hour, tax free, depending on the place and circumstance. This has caused panhandling to become more common, especially along busy roads and intersections.

"When people are aggressive downtown, I like to let people know that we’re aware," Paulos said.

Paulos says victims of aggressive panhandling should call police right away and stay in the area.

File Photo
Photo: AP/Robert F. Bukaty

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