After hoopla, no citations for aggressive panhandling all year

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Police are handing out flyers in Boise to let panhandlers know what's crossing the line, but after the city cracked down on aggressive soliciting in January, not one person has been slapped with a ticket, according to the police department.

"People go out and they collect some spare change and a couple of bucks," said Rudy Camarillo, who sometimes "flies a sign." "Other than that, they're not trying to hurt anybody."

That description of panhandling is legal, but Officer Tom Shuler says he's having conversations about the relatively new law with homeless people and others on a daily basis.

"We get quite a few complaints," Shuler said. "I can't give you an exact number, but people call in and say 'Hey, there was a guy asking for money in this parking lot.'"

Panhandling is not against the law. Aggressive panhandling is. That includes: intimidating a person into giving for fear of imminent bodily harm, continuing to solicit within five feet after a refusal, making threatening statements or gestures, making non-consensual physical contact and obstructing the path of the person solicited. Nobody has been cited for doing any of those things since the law went into effect earlier this year.

"Usually when it's an aggressive situation, it's because the person is intoxicated or maybe under the influence of some sort of substance," Shuler told KBOI 2News. "That's usually when that seems to occur. We don't have a lot of people here who just on their ordinary day are just that aggressive or that angry that really intimidate people."

As city leaders considered the ordinance, council meetings were packed, the ACLU filed a lawsuit and a judge ultimately stripped out many of the restrictions against panhandlers.

KBOI 2News asked Officer Shuler if it was a surprise that no one had been ticketed for aggressive panhandling in the past seven months.

"A little, yea, you'd think there'd be more incidents that would be serious enough," he said, "so I would expect within the next couple of years, we'll have one or two. I don't think it's ever going to be something that's a big problem."

If you feel threatened by a panhandler, police advise you to call 911.