SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - The grace period for the panhandling ban ended Wednesday in Spokane Valley, but KREM 2 News still found panhandlers at work, even though anybody caught asking for or giving money along streets risked being ticketed or arrested.
A couple of homeless men KREM 2 News spoke with on Wednesday said they believe the new law is working as fewer panhandlers are working the streets.
“There's strangers coming out here, that's it,” said a homeless man who only wanted to be identified as Dan. “But the regulars, they're gone because of the ordinance.”
Dan said the Washington State Patrol has chased him off twice in the past two weeks. Troopers told him they can't legally enforce a city ordinance so they made him move for trespassing in a limited freeway access area.
A Spokane County Deputy also warned Dan once for panhandling.
“They said you can't fly no more, it's an ordinance,” said Dan.
The ordinance prohibits panhandling along freeway interchanges, main arterials throughout Spokane Valley and within 100 feet on roads connected to them.
Officers used the first two weeks to primarily educate panhandlers. Police told us they warned about one dozen violators. The next time it happens, the offender could get a ticket or face arrest for being a repeat offender.
“I'll do my time for the crime,” said Dan. “It's not like I'm an angel. I've been in trouble before. I don't want to do this. I don't have a choice at this point and time.”
Dan said he applied for a job within the past two weeks, but it did not pan out.
Nigel Mendenhall said he's also homeless and jobless, but he refuses to panhandle.
“At the point that you start panhandling for me, it seems like you are no longer trying to do things for yourself,” said Mendenhall. “You are just asking people to do it for you.”
Spokane Valley Police said they have started to keep a database on panhandlers and the warning period is over.
Violators face up to a $1,000 fine and that includes the motorists that patronize them.