Recently, we have received many questions about the number of panhandlers along the streets and medians throughout the city. The most common question is whether it is legal to panhandle.
Panhandling in and of itself is not illegal. It is a constitutionally protected right of free speech. However, it is illegal for panhandlers to walk into and impede the free flow of traffic. It is also illegal for a panhandler to become aggressive with people.
If a panhandler asks for money and you tell them, “no,” they should leave you alone. If they continue to bother you or become aggressive with you, you can call the police department at 480-312-5000 or potentially 9-1-1 if the situation gets out of hand.
Contrary to popular belief, panhandlers are often not homeless. Many studies have shown that only a small percentage of panhandlers are actually homeless.
Panhandling is often considered a job and those that ask for money on the corner of our intersections often have a place they call home. Homelessness in many cases is the result of difficult circumstances like a loss of their job or mental illness.
Panhandling is normally by choice where homelessness is not. Giving a panhandler money only confirms that asking for money is easier than getting a job. This action keeps them in our city and at our intersections.
Our officers and police crisis intervention specialists continue to stop and have conversations with our homeless population to offer assistance and resources.
For someone who is truly homeless, one of the best things you can do to help is volunteer your time or provide resources to those organizations that help combat homelessness.
There are several organizations that provide local resources to the homeless, including Central Arizona Shelter Services and St. Vincent de Paul. One Scottsdale based organization is Shoebox Ministry, which provides personal hygiene products for the homeless and the working poor.
Editor’s Note: Mr. LeDuc is the commander of the Foothills District of the Scottsdale Police Department. His words originally appeared in the Winter 2018 District Newsletter.