Only on 4: Cracking down on aggressive panhandlers

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Updated: 5/01/2012 10:30 am

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.
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No Way - 5/2/2012 11:49 AM
0 Votes
I love hanging out in DownTown Reno, you see all walks of life. It's hilarious. Its great to just sit down and watch people all day long. Ya I agree the homeless to do get pushy and start name-calling but it's life of the Homeless. The tourists look a little bit scared when they are approached and the eventually give them money, and that my friends is where we need to stop giving them money. Some people like need to get the power to say the word NO. 2 years ago a tourist (a dude) punched the living daylights out of this homeless guy...ha ha, now that was funny, too bad I didn't have my camera, would have been a great youtube hit!!!

davruc - 5/1/2012 10:27 AM
0 Votes
I became a resident of this beautiful city in the summer of 1969. Families used to walk the carpeted sidewalks down Virginia St. with their children completely safe with no fear of panhandlers OR gang members! My family left Reno this past August 2011 to Daytona Beach Fl. It was sad to see the change over the years and how gangs, illegal immigrants, and other unwanted people took our town away!

straitshooter - 5/1/2012 9:38 AM
0 Votes
An unfortunate situation that has brewed.... a desperate homeless caste, asking tourists for money. Tourist dollars we use to keep this town running. Tourists that give this place life. If you scare them, it's hard for them to come here and spend money. These aggressive panhandlers are doing far more damage than they realize. I for one carry a visa card and no longer carry any change or dollars. I know many people who avoid downtown because of these panhandlers and now visitors will get the same idea and avoid Reno. No one wants to be yelled at by a dirty homeless man over some change.

earth420 - 5/1/2012 8:30 AM
0 Votes
GEEZ!! I have always thought panhandling is despicable! I KNOW it's hard to get a job ... but so many of these folks have DECIDED to sponge off of others in lew of becoming productive citizens. EVERYTHING is a choice .... and I, for one< did not come from any kind of wealth; in fact, just the opposite ... and suffered periods of addiction too BUT my choice was to straighten up and fly right. I NEVER panhandlied or lived off of anyone else... these folks can also make that choice! BTW ... I NEVER give them $$. I never even gave a cigarette when I smoked (had a lot of those requests in AZ when I lived there). If I had a newspaper when approached, I would give them the want ads. SO ... ACLU and mean???? NO!!! Not at all. Get a job and get sober or go somewhere that options might be available to folks wanting to get better!!

dedmike - 4/30/2012 10:59 PM
0 Votes
mean? Reno is mean because it wants rid of the hostile bums that threaten people who won't give them a handout or money for drugs? take off your blinders!

ChucknReno - 4/30/2012 5:29 PM
0 Votes
Where is the ACLU when you need them? Reno...The meanest little city.
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