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Is panhandling getting worse?
Manteca council members want crackdown
A homeless person bedding down in a building shell in downtown near Library Park. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Is panhandling becoming too aggressive  in Manteca?

Two Manteca City Council members say they believe that is the case.

Councilwoman Debby Moorhead indicated she was by herself when  she got out of her car recently one day at about 5 p.m. at Library Park. She hadn’t gone very far into the park when she noticed three homeless men moving toward her and asking for money.

“It was sort of scary,” Moorhead told her colleagues during Tuesday night’s Manteca City Council meeting.

Moorhead made a hasty retreat to her vehicle and left.

It dovetails into concerns that Councilman Vince Hernandez said have been relayed to him by several Manteca residents.

Hernandez - who first brought the subject of aggressive panhandling up at Tuesday’s meeting - said he has heard complaints about women being approached aggressively by panhandlers seeking money, gas, or food while trying to put fuel in their vehicles. He also told of women who had taken their children to the library with the intent of using Library Park afterwards only to be scared off by the homeless.

Hernandez understood that homeless have rights but at the same time “we don’t want to have our citizens affected by aggressiveness.”

He added that his concerns center on aggressive behavior becoming “too bold and brazen” and what that could lead to in  terms of physical confrontations. Hernandez added that women - and others - should feel safe using city parks.

Moorhead - like Hernandez - wants to make sure families feel safe at Library Park.

“My grandkids love that park,” Moorhead said.

Mayor Willie Weatherford said he hoped Police Chief Nick Obligacion could devise a tragedy to address the apparent proliferation of aggressive  panhandling as the department has done in  the past without infringing on the rights of the homeless.

Since the item wasn’t on the agenda and was brought up under council comments, the council couldn’t take formal action.

Under Manteca municipal ordinances no one is allowed to solicit, ask, or beg in an aggressive manner in any public place.

“Aggressive manner” means:

• approaching or speaking to a person, or following a person before, during or after soliciting, if that conduct is intended or is likely to cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm to oneself or to another, damage to or loss of property, or otherwise be intimidated into giving money or other thing of value.

• intentionally touching, or causing physical contact with another person or an occupied vehicle without that person’s consent during the course of soliciting.

• intentionally blocking or interfering with the safe or free passage of a pedestrian or vehicle by any means, including unreasonably causing a pedestrian or vehicle operator to take evasive action to avoid physical contact.

• using violent or threatening gestures toward a person.

• persisting in closely following or approaching a person after they have informed the solicitor they do not want to give money or any other thing of value to the solicitor; or

• using profane, offensive or abusive language which is inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction, either before, during, or after solicitation.

The ordinance specifically prohibits any type of solicitation within 15 feet of the entrance to any financial institution within business hours or an ATM at any time. It is also illegal to solicit anyone who is in a motor vehicle  within 100 feet of an intersection controlled with traffic lights.

Soliciting also can not take place in public parking lot one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise.