Thursday, March 31, 2011

Panhandling Decreases Downtown, Moves to Other Parts of Yakima

YAKIMA - KIMA is following up on the panhandling issue in Yakima. Last year, new laws were passed banning aggressive begging and setting fines for violators. You told us the problem has gotten much better downtown, where we previously reported it was the worst. But police said panhandling hasn't gone away here in Yakima, it's just moved.

"They were pretty aggressive,” said Matt Klaus with the Committee for Downtown Yakima. “There were a few that were really well known here."

"They would follow you to your car and wait at your window,” said downtown worker, Barnaby Lang. “There were a lot of scared people."

Employees and shoppers in downtown Yakima said just a year ago, they were frequently approached by panhandlers. That’s not the case anymore. They told Action News they haven't seen someone begging for money in months.

"It's nice to be out here,” Lang said. “It feels safer coming to and from work."

But the same can’t necessarily be said in other parts of town. YPD said the problem hasn't gone away, it’s just moved to places like 40th and Fruitvale and First and Nob Hill. 

"It doesn't matter what day of the year it is, rain or snow, sometimes there's even three (panhandling,)” said Maria Madrigal. 

Police said the issue will likely never go away completely, but tighter regulations have helped curb the pushy behavior. KIMA was told simply asking for money is legal, but people are being ticketed for stepping into the road.

"It starts becoming a crime when they intimidate people into giving them something,” said Sgt. Lloyd George. 

And that something they may or may not get from the public likely won't come close to covering the $56 ticket for panhandling.

Police said a good chuck of panhandlers are not from Yakima, and just passing through the area. 

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