Few cited under new panhandling ordinance

You remember the city's new panhandling ordinance — the one that promised more safety and fewer panhandlers downtown, and took some heat from fill-the-boot style fundraisers.

The law went into effect in October, but isnt gaining much traction. According to data from Spokane Municipal Court, only two tickets have been written this year for solicitation in the roadway, the category under which the new law falls.

Officer Wayne Downing, a downtown neighborhood resource officer, says its hard to catch panhandlers in the act of stepping into the street because they know to be on the lookout for cops. Downing says hes given warnings for first-time offenses, but hasnt ticketed anyone.

As frequently as it happens, its often not observed by law enforcement, he says. Unless its in our presence, theres not much action we can take.

The law, brought to City Council in August and put into effect in October, allows people to stand on the sidewalk and ask for money, but prohibits them from stepping into downtown streets (to take money from a car window, for example). The proposal initially applied to the whole city, but after outcries from groups like the Spokane Guilds School — which runs a penny drive in the street each year — it was whittled down to the downtown core.