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Panhandlers in Arden Arcade intimidate elderly walking alone in the daytime

Sacramento County supervisors have unanimously voted to ban aggressive panhandling in response to complaints from suburban business leaders and residents, according to the April 25, 2014 News10 article, "Sacramento County bans aggressive panhandling." The Sacramento Bee reported Thursday that the 5-0 vote came after little discussion and testimony from several supporters and no opposition. The issue is that this new ordinance would prohibit panhandling in areas where people being solicited feel "vulnerable to crime, intimidation and coercion" - including medians, banks, ATMs and gas stations. For more information on the vote, check out the article, "Sacramento County supervisors: Will arrest for food - Page Burner."

Panhandlers in Arden Arcade intimidate elderly walking alone in the daytime
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

That article notes, "Supervisors pulled the measure from their consent calendar upon request from Erlenbusch and Sacramento Area Congregations Together, both of which work closely with homeless people and recommended outreach teams made up of sheriff’s deputies and social-service navigators as an alternative." The big issue here in Sacramento, particularly in the Arden Arcade area as in downtown and midtown is the singling out of elderly pedestrians, particularly women by aggressive panhandlers asking for money loudly and with hostility.

Those who approach elderly women with their personal utility carts on their way to shopping or walking home have a very different tone of voice and body gestures than the panhandlers asking cars stopped in traffic for a handout or approaching several people walking together. Arden Arcade is one area singled out by panhandlers from other areas who stand as if guarding the approach to shopping areas, waiting for an older person walking alone, usually a female, but also older males, to ask for money, not change but dollars, often in a loud, aggressive, and hostile tone. It's a form of intimidation of senior citizens on foot.

Violations would be cited as an infraction, with three infractions in six months resulting in a misdemeanor charge. A final vote on the rule took place May 13, 2014 and it will likely go into effect in June 2014. The newspaper says the unincorporated area is the only part of Sacramento County without panhandling restrictions. Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Sacramento and other cities have similar ordinances restricting the activity. One of the worse areas of abuse of panhandling in the Arden Arcade area is at the corner of Watt and El Camino avenues.

At this corner there are several shopping areas including big box stores such as Walmart, across the street from various thrift stores such as Goodwill and the new Dollar Tree store that will be opening at the end of May. The panhandlers usually approach people and single out elderly women walking alone. They usually don't approach several people walking together. This puts older women trying to get to a food market or other shopping areas at a disadvantage for being singled out so often and sometimes aggressively by panhandlers near the shopping areas. The panhandling not only encompasses the downtown shopping areas in the daytime, but has spread to other areas of Sacramento, especially Arden Arcade.

There also are panhandlers walking by the numerous fast-food eateries as you walk along Watt Avenue from Marconi to El Camino Avenues. The aggressive panhandlers approach older women walking alone, some with their utility carts headed for the shopping areas. The worse is when they grab your arm and ask for a few dollars, not for spare change any more. If you ignore them, often they sidle up to you and yell in your ear loudly, anything from a hostile ear-piercing shriek of "Merry Christmas." To a loud, angry "Grandma," as they are ignored.

The shopper is intimidated and frightened. Suddenly the panhandler has victimized a person walking alone, usually an older woman. The person is not approached when walking with other people. How can such intimidation and fear by dubbed as free speech when it victimizes and frightens the person being approached aggressively?

Recently, the Sacramento County Supervisors approved a panhandling crackdown on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. There were objections from various homeless advocates complaining about criminalizing the poor or interfering with free speech. It gets emotion when you're the elderly victim of aggressive panhandlers who ambush you as you walk to supermarkets and other shopping areas in some areas, for example, Arden Arcade.

What the new policy outlaws is panhandling near banks, ATMs, gas stations, shopping centers, public transit, vehicles, and traffic medians. The law still doesn't prevent a panhandler from approaching an elderly, slow-moving nondriver walking with a utility cart along the streets, such as Marconi Avenue, Watt Avenue, or El Camino Avenue approaching a shopping area or bus stop. The person isn't yet in the shopping center, and the big problem is being approached simply while walking in the street. Often the panhandler ambushes the pedestrian from a driveway before the pedestrian arrives close to a shopping center.

In the past, the panhandlers would stand in various supermarket parking lots waiting for pedestrians walking out of the supermarket area to get to the sidewalk

You would see a stream of elderly people with their personal utility carts trying to get from the footpath in the supermarket parking lot to the sidewalk to wheel their groceries home. The various panhandlers would stand at the entrance to the footpath, that little strip of concrete for pedestrians to make their way through the supermarket parking lots to the door.

The signs would be held up with various statements such as homeless or veteran or unemployed. Frequently you'd see someone with a large dog blocking the pedestrian from leaving the supermarket parking lot and turning from the footpath to get on the public sidewalk with a utility cart. The people frequently approached would be nondrivers, usually older people trying to get their groceries home as they tried to get to the sidewalk. Not all the panhandlers were hostile and aggressive, but some were, often young males.

There were also middle-aged women running out of alleyways and other hidden areas ambushing older women walking alone, usually asking for several dollars. Not all of them spoke aggressively demanding a handout of several dollars. But some of the younger male panhandlers were aggressive and loud as they passed elderly women of slow gait trying to get home from the supermarkets and other shopping areas with their utility carts. This happened along Marconi Avenue near Watt Avenue.

It has been a frequent encounter for the past 15 years or so. Bus stops also were frequent targets for panhandlers to approach women alone, particularly older women, as if they panhandlers single out older women thinking they're more of a target for giving money. There has to be an alternative to panhandlers because they appear to target older women walking alone and older women with disabilities at bus stops and along streets leading to various shopping centers. For more information on homelessness, you may wish to check out the article, "Bob Erlenbusch thinks Sacramento can end homelessness by 2039."

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