There’s a sign — actually a number of them — that Manteca is changing its tactics when it comes to panhandling.
Three years ago when panhandling by many accounts was getting out of hand, some advocated placing signs at freeway off-ramps making it clear it was unlawful to panhandle or loiter within 100 feet of an intersection controlled by traffic signals.
City staff at the time shot down such suggestions saying it would send the “wrong message” as in Manteca was rife with panhandlers and the homeless.
They even pointed to Stockton and Modesto where they said such signs didn’t eliminate the problem.
Proponents of the signs argued that if more people knew it was illegal to panhandle at such intersections, they might be less inclined to participate in an illegal act by giving panhandlers money. A few people noted panhandlers and their benefactors would often do transactions during heavy commute times and during heavy travel periods on Saturdays and end up not reacting to light changes in a timely manner and backing up traffic.
In some cases — such as the northbound off-ramp on Highway 99 at Yosemite Avenue — panhandlers have been known to stand on the white shoulder line essentially in the turn lane forcing drivers to slow down.
The city has now changed course and is starting to place brown and white signs at freeway off-ramps reading “Absolutely no loitering or panhandling” followed by wording that says violators will be prosecuted with reference to the proper municipal code section. Eventually all freeway off-ramps along the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 within the city limits will have the signs in place.
Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau said the idea is to not just educate panhandlers of the law but also those who give money to the panhandlers.
No one, including
firefighters can legally
ask for money at
The courts have allowed the restrictions in various cities due to clear public safety issues with traffic flow. The city’s municipal ordinance doesn’t just refer to panhandlers but those who seek any donations at an intersection controlled by traffic signals. That includes groups soliciting for money for funeral expenses and such as well as fill the boot endeavors that the Manteca Firefighters Association has conducted at Main Street and Mission Ridge Drive as well as efforts for the Manteca Mural Society at Yosemite Avenue and Main Street.
Courts have made it clear that restrictions on panhandling or seeking donations much be universal and not target a specific group such as the homeless.
The police chief said when officers are not tied up on other higher priority calls and dispatch receives a call of people illegally panhandling, a police unit will be dispatched. At the same time if an officer is on patrol and not heading to a call they will stop and either tell the offender to move on or cite them if the situation warrants it. She added the most effective way to address the problem is for people not to give money to panhandlers, especially in areas such as off-ramps where traffic and safety issues come into play. She has suggested in the past that it is more effective, if a person is inclined to help people, to donate to agencies that work to take care of the day-to-day needs of the homeless.
Oftentimes people will interchange panhandlers and the homeless. Most of the time the two are not interchangeable as panhandlers actually may not be homeless.
collect $100 plus
on a typical day
Based on observations by readers and contacts Manteca Police officers have made over the past four years with panhandlers on Manteca streets it has been noted:
uOne well-known panhandler who receives disability, lives in a small house provided by relatives and works small jobs such as flying signs will panhandle to earn extra money to buy electronic goods. Before Kmart closed, he routinely put high-priced electronics on layaway that he paid for with panhandling receipts.
uOfficers in talking with panhandlers such as near the Costco entrance have found they drive into Manteca from Modesto and Stockton because people in Manteca tend to be more generous. In one instance, former Police Chief Nick Obligacion observed a Stockton couple when they were finished panhandling drive to a set-down restaurant for a meal.
uPanhandlers have said they can collect between $80 to $100 on a good day in Manteca or the equivalent of $100 to $120 before taxes translating into $15 an hour based on an eight-hour day.
Panhandling issues aren’t the exclusive problem of Manteca, Stockton, or Modesto. In January of 2016 Fresno Police arrested an aggressive panhandler they described of “having confronted” a dozen vehicles in 20 minutes. The 43-year-old panhandler had $1,800 in cash on him when he was arrested. Other Fresno panhandlers have told media outlets in that community that they average about $3,000 a month in money being given to them. Given that panhandling is a misdemeanor, Fresno officials indicated issuing a ticket has minimal impact. The best solution they told news outlet is what Manteca police have been asking city residents to do and that’s not to give money to panhandlers.
Manteca’s 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 cannot take place in public parking lots one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise.
Manteca law also bars “aggressive” panhandling in any public place.
“Aggressive manner” means:
uapproaching 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.
uintentionally touching, or causing physical contact with another person or an occupied vehicle without that person’s consent during the course of soliciting.
uintentionally 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.
uusing violent or threatening gestures toward a person.
upersisting 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
uusing profane, offensive or abusive language which is inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction, either before, during, or after solicitation.
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