Ask Joe: Is Reno doing enough to address panhandling problem?
Dave Baker, who lives in northwest Reno, called up asking what can be done about the panhandlers in downtown Reno.
Dave says they're getting more aggressive, and he wants to know why the city doesn't crack down on it more.
Here's what I found out:
This does seem to be a growing problem, but there's not a whole lot police can do about it. The city's stance is that it's not illegal to ask for money.
The only way police will cite someone is if they step off the curb into traffic and solicit drivers for money.
The city of Reno is sensitive to peoples' first amendment rights and that's why police say their hands are tied. When it comes to people panhandling or begging for money downtown at places like the Reno Arch, that will continue.
Reno Police take their direction from the city attorney's office on issues like this. And it seems clear the city is concerned about the possibility of lawsuits if police were to begin arresting people for panhandling.
The interesting thing about this is state law says you cannot ask for money without some sort of license -- a business license, basically. But again, the city of Reno takes a different stance on this issue.
So unless that changes, panhandlers will be a part of the downtown landscape.