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Eugene residents raise concerns about panhandling

One man experienced a threatening situation near the Eugene WinCo.

Posted: Jun 5, 2018 7:05 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- People in Eugene say they're experiencing aggressive panhandling. One man even said he was chased and cursed at by a panhandler near the WinCo in West Eugene. When he shared his story on social media, many others echoed his concerns.

The City of Springfield implemented an ordinance in 2016 that has cut back panhandling. Springfield police said fewer people are experiencing panhandling encounters that leave them feeling uncomfortable and sometimes threatened.

The Springfield ordinance was designed with road safety in mind. All it says is that a motorist can't hand something to a pedestrian while in their car. They do still have the ability to give to panhandlers if they park their car or walk to the person.

“It's a safety hazard when people approach cars, for the person approaching and for the motorist too,” said Betty Taylor, a Eugene City Councilor. “So I think that saying you have to park your car before you can give money is a good idea."

Taylor said she would rather people take advantage of services in the area than panhandle, but she believes that isn't likely to happen.

So, for now, it would be a better idea to keep residents' safety in mind.

Lt. Scott McKee with Springfield police said the ordinance there is making people feel safer. He said there can be a tension people feel when they pull up to an intersection and see someone asking them for money. Some of the time that can even lead to aggression and confrontation.

“Sort of an unintended positive outcome is that you don't have that anxiety and sometimes intimidation or fear that motorists talk about that they experience in other cities,” McKee said.

The man who complained about the panhandling incident near WinCo said he felt the situation was handled well by their management, who he said immediately took his concern seriously and confronted the panhandler.

With Springfield's ordinance seeing success in lowering the rate of this kind of incident, will Eugene think about implementing something similar?

“I don't know. I think it's possible if enough citizens ask us to,” Taylor said.

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