Salina Police address increased panhandling

The following is a release from the Salina Police Department:

The City of Salina and the Salina Police Department have recently received numerous complaints regarding panhandlers in our community. A common question is why can’t the police just move them along or why can’t they be arrested.

The simple answer is each of us has a constitutional right to ask others for money as long as it is not done in a threatening or aggressive manner. Salina does have ordinances forbidding aggressive panhandling. This offense requires a victim and the elements of the crime of aggressive panhandling to be present. Aggressive panhandling would entail threatening approaches, following, physical contact, or verbal threats.

It is also illegal to stand on a highway or roadway for the purpose of soliciting, business or contribution from the occupant of any vehicles. Merely standing on the shoulder of a roadway does not constitute standing on the roadway.

Panhandling is more of a societal problem than it is a law enforcement issue. An easy solution to this problem is to NOT give money to panhandlers. Giving panhandlers money discourages them from seeking the services they may truly need and encourages them to keep doing what they are doing, sitting on a bucket holding a sign.

Giving money to a panhandler can actually be harmful to Salina as it diverts money that could be going towards assistance programs already in place designed to help those in need. Research has shown that the donated money received by panhandlers often is used to buy alcohol and/or illegal drugs.

It is imperative that citizens of Salina and Saline County realize that there is a strong relationship between panhandling and substance abuse.

Many of these panhandlers do not access readily available social services because they may not actually be in need or may not even be from the area They are simply taking advantage of the compassion and generosity of the citizens of Salina.

Please chose to donate to programs such as Catholic Charities, Emergency Aid Food Bank, Salina Area United Way, of the Salvation Army and not directly to panhandlers. By giving panhandlers money, your are part of the problem, not the solution.

Panhandling will cease to be an issue in our community if the community collectively decides to cease giving individuals money for dubious reasons at best.