Ask the Chief
Q: I'm at the stoplight and a panhandler is holding a sign requesting money. How should I respond to the panhandler(s)?
A: It is only human nature to want to help your fellow man and the words on the sign can pull at your heartstrings ("Laid off", "Homeless with child" or “Disabled Vet”) but I highly recommend that you don't for the following reasons:
1. Your primary objective when driving your car is to give your undivided attention to the operation of the vehicle. Removing money from your wallet or purse takes your hands off of the wheel and makes you susceptible to a snatch and grab crime.
2. By taking the extra time to look for the money you may cause a traffic jam or a car accident.
3. By making a donation you may be creating a bigger problem such as the person(s) not getting the long-term care they need.
4. It is best not to start a conversation with a panhandler as an argument may ensue.
The courts have ruled panhandlers have First Amendment rights to stand near a roadway to exercise their right to Free Speech with their signs but they are not to block traffic or stand in the street.
If you want to help your fellow man, donate to a reputable organization that provides food, shelter and other basic needs such as the Salvation Army, United Way, Hope Coalition, or the Red Wing Food Shelf. During normal business hours, these non-profits will try to help the person, however, after normal business hours, the Red Wing Police Department works with the Salvation Army and Hope Coalition to provide “necessary” aid to those in need, pending the availability of funds.
Please note, if the panhandler becomes aggressive and you feel threatened, call 911.
1. Minnesota Statutes: 169.22 HITCHHIKING; SOLICITATION OF BUSINESS.
Subd. 1. Soliciting ride. No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride from the driver of any private vehicle.
§Subd. 2. Soliciting employment, business, or contributions. No person shall stand on a roadway for the purpose of soliciting employment, business, or contributions from the occupant of any vehicle. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=169.22
Stay aware and stay safe!