Police dealing with panhandling at Hamilton intersections
Drivers at the corner of Queen and Main shouldn't be too surprised to see someone approach the car and ask for money. And Hamilton's downtown councillor is still hoping police can fix that.
The intersection is a common one for panhandlers who approach cars, said Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2. Some tap on the window, which police define as aggressive.
There are other areas in the city where this can happen. Panhandlers are often at Summers Lane at King, or Hess and King, or Centennial and Barton.
But Queen and Main is "definitely a hot spot," Farr said. And he's wondering what police can do about it.
The issue was discussed at a task force on cleanliness and safety in the downtown subcommittee meeting on Thursday. Inspector Scott Rastin of Hamilton Police Service updated the group on efforts to deal with "aggressive" panhandlers.
The term "aggressive" can be a gray area, Rastin said. It includes obstructing people, yelling or threatening people, or touching people.
"Sitting there with a cup is not technically aggressive," Rastin said. "But if the person is going out of their way to obstruct you, be bothersome or challenge you, that's aggressive."
Approaching cars at intersections is "borderline," he said. "Tapping on the windows could be classified as aggressive."
Panhandling is not against the law, Rastin said. Police can charge aggressive panhandlers under the Safe Streets Act.
A more common approach is the Social Navigator program, which sees panhandlers connected with social services that deal with larger issues, whether they be mental health, housing, addiction or access to employment.
Since the program was established in July 2011 by the city, police and emergency medical services, 86 people have been "navigated," Rastin said.
"We've had a very good success rate," he said. "Panhandlers come to us now and say they've heard about the program and want to access it."
Farr has been talking to police about Queen and Main for about two years. He suspects the Social Navigator program is the way to go.
"It's on our radar," Rastin said.