Sun, Nov. 17

Man arrested for aggressive panhandling, first test of new Safe Shopper Program

COTTONWOOD -- The program has been in place for four months, but Cottonwood Police Wednesday made their first arrest of an "aggressive panhandler" under Cottonwood's Safe Shopper program.

Police have been using the agreement between businesses and police as an educational program. But in the case at Fry's early Wednesday, a man became belligerent and refused business and police requests.

Two Cottonwood officers were called to the grocery when store employees attempted to have a man leave the shopping center private property.

The 38-year-old man carried a valid Oregon driver's license. He said he stepped off the sidewalk in front of the store, but did not feel the store had the authority to make him leave the entire property.

The police report states officers explained that since the property management company placed the entire property under the Safe Shopper Program, the complaint of a single store is adequate for him to be removed from the entire property.

Store employees told the officers that they confronted the panhandler after four shoppers had complained about him and he had cursed and yelled at the employees, and refused to leave. It was then that the employees called police and sought a disorderly conduct complaint.

Officers told the man he was free to panhandle on public property, but not in the shopping center complex. He responded by saying it was not as effective and he "made more money" when he approached people face to face.

The police sergeant determined he had probable cause to "cite and release" the man for disorderly conduct and trespassing, but he refused to sign the complaint. The officer explained that if he did not sign the citation, the officers would have to arrest him and take him to jail. At that, the man spun around and said, "put on the bracelets."

As a courtesy, one officer agreed to take the man's car keys and retrieve his cell phone from his 2006 Mustang GT parked in the Fry's lot.

The man complained that he needed to panhandle since he was only receiving $2,000 a month in unemployment.

Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell said the instance is "a classic case of a predator diverting attention away from those that really need help and exploiting the good will of our citizens."

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