You’re filling up your car at a local gas station when out of the blue a man walks up to you and asks you for money.
What do you do?
Residents in Temecula and Menifee have reported being approached by panhandlers in recent weeks, so we spoke to a local law enforcement official about possible ways to react to panhandlers.
Panhandling can be a crime although it’s rarely reported to police or prosecuted in court. Section 647 (c) of the California Penal Code says it’s illegal to accost another person in a public place or a place open to the public for the purpose of begging or “soliciting alms,” according to Murrieta Police Sgt. Markellus Reid.
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Wishes for Children
Temecula Murrieta Rescue Mission
Riverside County Homeless Shelter
In order for police to arrest someone for this crime, the panhandling needs to occur in the presence of a police officer or a victim/witness who will stick around and give police a statement for prosecution, Reid said.
Oftentimes, the public won’t call police and the police won’t arrest the suspect unless they see the person aggressively soliciting people. “That could be something that’s a danger to the public,” Reid said.
It’s up to the recipient whether or not to call the police, or how to react. “They need to look out for their own personal safety,” Reid advised. “It’s a personal choice.”
If the police are called but the person isn’t being aggressive or there’s no witness, police might contact the suspect. “We can advise them of the law and ask them not to do those things,” Reid said.
Any time a member of the public feels threatened or unsafe, they should call police, he said.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.