WALLA WALLA, Washington – The Walla Walla Police Department plans to place small signs in four locations in hopes of discouraging the public from supporting panhandlers, but to support local charities instead.
“We would rather see people donate to the local charities like Christian Aid Center, Walla Walla Alliance for the Homeless, YWCA – various charities throughout the community that actually provide programs and services to help folks down on their luck and need food and need a place to stay,” Chief Scott Bieber said.
The signage will be placed by the bus stop and Baker Boyer Bank on Plaza Way; in front of both McDonald’s on Isaacs Avenue and South Ninth Avenue; and in front of Super 1 Foods on South Ninth Avenue.
“Panhandling in and of itself is not illegal,” Bieber said. “Many case laws have protected it as free speech under the First Amendment. In the city of Walla Walla, however, aggressive panhandling is against the law.”
Bieber explained aggressive panhandling is physically blocking somebody’s path, using words or threatening behavior to try to extract money.
“Handing out money to panhandling in my experience over 34 years in law enforcement just basically enables that person to continue whatever maybe substance abuse issues that they have and doesn’t put them on a real positive track,” Bieber said.
He hopes the placement of the new signage helps.
Bieber said the city of Kennewick had a ban in certain areas a while ago, but that the Washington State Supreme Court struck that ban down. Now, the city of Kennewick has placed permanent anti-panhandling signage which has had a fairly positive effect in that area.