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Panhandlers push walk buttons to hold traffic
Sage advice from Jack Snyder

I couldn’t figure why the crosswalk signals for pedestrians moving north-south through the East Yosemite Avenue/Northwoods Drive/Commerce Drive intersection kept coming on.

It happened on my way jogging to — and back — from In Shape on Monday.

On the corner where McDonalds is located a panhandler holding the prerequisite sign — was constantly pushing the crosswalk button — while her two children sat nearby on a grassy area. As I passed her she was busy pushing the button to cross the street even though she had no intention of doing so.

It seems like a harmless thing to do but by alerting the controller a pedestrian is waiting to cross when that really isn’t the case it simply extends the red light wait. That backs up traffic.

The strategy is pretty clear: The panhandler wanted to have a bit of a captive audience for a longer period of time on the premise it might get her some donations.

In the past I’ve seen other panhandlers do the same thing.

That said, it seems the panhandlers working intersections and even off-ramps in Manteca have dropped in recent months even before the weather started turning.

Credit that to more people understanding it is illegal for panhandling to take place at controlled intersections and off ramps. The courts agree given such bans are deeply rooted into safety and traffic flow considerations.

You rarely see panhandlers now at the Yosemite-99 interchange. This past summer, apparently frustrated that motorists were heeding the city signs posted that note it is against the law to panhandle at that location, several more aggressive types tried the median along Yosemite Avenue on both sides of the freeway.

Motorists — or perhaps others in the area — recognized how dangerous and illegal the practice was and would routinely alert Manteca Police. When officers were available they’d drop by the median and get the panhandlers to move on.

Five things to keep in mind:

*It is legal for the city to outlaw panhandling in such locations for overriding safety and traffic flow considerations. That said nothing is stopping people from panhandling along virtually any other spot along the city’s street system as long as they are not doing so in an aggressive manner. Keep in mind that’s not the City of Manteca allowing it but rather the city complying with a directive from a higher authority — the U.S. Supreme Court.

*There are a lot of resources in Manteca available to help people legitimately in need that doesn’t involve flying a sign. But as various homeless individuals in the past few years have claimed to police and the Bulletin, they can “make” upwards of $80 on an average good day panhandling. That’s essentially the same as making $100 tax free by holding a sign for a number of hours. Why follow rules to secure food and such when you can panhandle and do what you want?

*Manteca Police cannot be everywhere at once. There are a lot of things that are illegal to do in addition to panhandling at traffic signals and off-ramps. When officers are available they are sent to get the panhandlers to move along. If you don’t see an officer show up in a reasonable time don’t stop reporting such incidents. Such calls are tracked. If one location is a trouble spot rest assured that on another day when officers aren’t tied up on other calls they will check the location out. Usually in doing so, they will find panhandlers there and get them to move on.

*It takes two to tango. People wouldn’t be panhandling in illegal locations if someone wasn’t making the illegal act possible by giving them money.

*Panhandlers often aren’t homeless. I don’t profess to know every homeless person in Manteca by sight, but the lady with what I assumed where her two kids didn’t seem familiar. In past years Manteca has seen a surge in panhandling — especially couples or what appears to be families — around the holidays as well as January and February when the weather is less than stellar that it pulls on heart strings. As police, others and myself have discovered a lot of these people admit to driving into Manteca to panhandle with more than a few noting it’s because Manteca residents seem to be more generous.



Some sage advice

from the dean of

former Manteca

council members

Tapped a number on my contact list Monday and I got a familiar voice to say “Old folks home, how can I help you?”

I had called Jack Snyder to verify some city history.

Snyder at age 92 holds the record for the longest time serving on the Manteca City Council at 24 years. That includes eight years as mayor.

My intent wasn’t to quote him but his words were too good to pass up.

“Ben Cantu is the mayor,” Snyder said. “He earned the job and he deserves a chance to succeed.”

Snyder pointed out that in order for Cantu to be effective he has to “do the math to get to three” referencing how that all actions needed to get things down or policy set require a council majority of which Cantu has just one vote.

Snyder noted if Cantu succeeds as mayor to help move Manteca forward “we all succeed.”

Sage words coming from a man who has locked horns to a degree with Cantu over the years on various issues and who also was a big supporter of Steve DeBrum in his re-election campaign.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email