Panhandling in Apple Valley
Our community has seen an increase in panhandlers, or people asking for donations near our roadways. While many community members feel that giving money to panhandlers is helpful, those handouts do not assist with the long-term needs of the panhandlers, nor does it reduce the likelihood of those panhandlers continuing this activity on and near our roadways. There are many resources available to panhandlers to assist with their long-term needs.
The First Amendment protects panhandlers and allows them to stand and display their signs. However, they are prohibited from entering the roadway, being disorderly or aggressive, or interfering with the flow of traffic. We respond to calls regularly from citizens who are concerned for the well-being of panhandlers. Sadly, a 37-year-old man was struck and killed by a vehicle in 2019. Multiple witnesses indicated he ran into traffic and officers knew this man as he was a regular panhandler at the intersection where he was struck.
Police Officers responding to panhandler complaints in Apple Valley do so in accordance with our mission statement, with a focus on service, education, and enforcement. Apple Valley Police Officers provide those in need with resources (service) to connect them with long-term services. These resources include Dakota County Crisis, Ally Supportive Services, and 360 Communities Food Shelves. When violations take place, officers use their discretion to decide if a warning (education) is appropriate, or if a citation (enforcement) is appropriate. Our experience is that a small number of people panhandle and repeated violations are best responded to with a citation. Further, through the court system, additional treatment and service options are available to panhandlers who are truly interested in long-term resources.
Examples of Common Occurrences
Residents hoping to provide assistance to panhandlers can also find themselves in an enforcement situation as a motorist. Stopping in traffic, or allowing a pedestrian to enter the roadway can constitute obstructing traffic, and traffic crashes could result. Below are some examples of situations that our officers routinely see.
- Dakota County Social Services provides a wide range of assistance including Public Assistance for food, medical, or emergency assistance.
- Dakota County Mobile Crisis Response is a 24/7 resource for any mental or substance assistance.
- Ally Supportive Services conducts street outreach, housing support, and stability services.
- 360 Communities has a network of five food shelves providing immediate food and resources to individuals and families to bridge them through difficult times.