Sign o' the crimes: Holding up traffic handing change to panhandler illegal

Sign o' the crimes: Holding up traffic handing change to panhandler illegal

ALBANY, Ore. - Got spare change? Don't hold up traffic.

That's the message in Albany, where police put up 15 signs warning drivers not to stop in traffic to give money to panhandlers.

While holding up a sign asking for money is legal, law enforcement say many of the actions associated with panhandling are illegal and have safety risks.

Panhandlers often walk into the street, endangering themselves and those around them; many drivers pull over, despite green lights at intersections to give to panhandlers. 

Both these actions are against state law, says Captain Eric Carter of the Albany Police department.

After resident complaints, police studied the issue.

"We put up a camera and we actually very quickly within a matter of a few moments saw several violation of just that: where motorists are stopping on green lights and people are stepping out int0 traffic to receive money from drivers," said Capt. Eric Carter.

Panhandlers who spoke to KMTR NewsSource 16 said even if safety is a concern, the signs will do little to change how people behave.

"I agree that people can be risky out here, that the combination of people and cars can be a risk," said Julie Smith, who has panhandled for more than a decade. "People that want to give are going to give. Their heart is affected to give and I don't think that's going to override a sign."

Police said they are holding off on active enforement, but they hope the signs help educate people on the dangers involved in panhandling.