RENO, Nev (KRNV & MyNews4.com)-This is a look at life on the streets in downtown Reno.
For many, that life revolves around panhandling. But when it becomes aggressive, the downtown enforcement team steps in.
“Our number one complaint from casinos and citizens is people asking for money,” says Reno Police Sargent, Greg Blair.
In order to catch the aggressive panhandlers, two undercover cops, dressed in everyday clothes, will walk down the streets of downtown Reno.
Now if someone is holding out a cup, shakes it and mumbles under their breath asking for money, it’s not usually considered aggressive. But when that mumble simply becomes coherent, we enter a grey area. The act of asking for money is illegal and when the mumble is coherent, it’s up to the discretion of the officer to determine if it’s aggressive.
If the undercover cops are asked for money, they make a call, and the downtown enforcement team sweeps in to either issue a citation or at times, make an arrest.
A lot of times, the downtown enforcement team is dealing with repeat offenders, like this man who they refer to as “Lynch.” I asked Lynch if he feels like he’s being picked on.
“This town is all about money. And I’m not bringing any money in, I’m taking it. I’m taking money. So I’m a negative subject in their eyes,” says Lynch.
And for most of these repeat offenders, it’s an addiction that drives them.
“I buy alcohol, food. I give my friend a few bucks to sleep on his floor,” says Lynch.
Police say as long as they’re sober and it’s the first offense of the day, they’re only issued a citation. But when it comes to sobriety, the downtown enforcement team warns me, you can’t take their word for it. For instance, this man named Michael told me he’s six months sober. But five seconds later i couldn’t help, but ask…
“So you’re not drinking anything right now because I can smell alcohol on your breath. Well, I had a beer,” says Michael.
But the breathalyzer test says differently. He blew a .08. And because of the results of the breathalyzer test, he was taken into custody, to sober up.
A couple minutes later, the downtown enforcement team got a call from the undercover cops. Lynch who was given a citation an hour earlier, was allegedly caught asking for money again. Police say, he’d been warned and now he’s taken into custody.
“As long as you’re putting it on the news, they’re arresting me for nothing. I did nothing wrong,” says Lynch.
The downtown enforcement team is out once a week, making sure you can walk down the streets of downtown Reno in peace.