Jones' proposal is bizarre, nutty, dumb, unworkable and shockingly out of touch with what's going on in Albuquerque right now.
If you despise panhandlers and wish they would all suddenly and permanently disappear, you might be tempted to cheer City Councilor Trudy Jones’ proposal to further crack down on panhandlers, and the motorists who stick their arms out their vehicle windows to give a couple of bucks, or even food, to the beggars who seem to be at just about every major intersection and freeway off ramp in town.
But you’d be cheering for, well, emptiness and nothing.
That’s because the rewrite of the city’s traffic code that Jones has introduced, a rewrite that makes it illegal for panhandlers and any other pedestrians to attempt to interact with vehicular traffic, whether it be for panhandling or any other reason, won’t do a damn thing to dent what some say is a panhandling epidemic in the city.
Not a damn thing.
In fact, Jones’ proposal is bizarre, nutty, dumb, unworkable and shockingly out of touch with what’s going on in Albuquerque right now.
And what’s going on is that we have a property and violent crime epidemic in the city.
More than 20 cars are stolen every day and we are now the auto theft capital of the nation. Cops are taking more than 12 minutes to get to priority one 911 calls, things like murders, shootings, stabbings and other major crimes. Cops start their 12-hour days with a briefing and then pretty much spend the rest of their days racing from 911 call to 911 call.
Who and where are these cops that are going to forego racing to a shooting scene, or a major car crash, to ticket a panhandler or a motorist who gave them money?
There isn’t a single cop who is going to waste their precious time ticketing a panhandler. Even if they wanted to they can’t because they don’t have the time.
And ticketing a panhandler or the dangerous criminals who give them money is all cops can do. They can’t arrest them. Does anyone really think that a panhandler is going to be scared off by a ticket?
Cops aren’t going after panhandlers now. Albuquerque already has an aggressive panhandling law on its books, and I guarantee you that cops aren’t enforcing it. That’s because they have a whole host of more serious criminals – fiends, crooks, auto thieves and batterers – to chase down.
Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said he can’t remember hearing of a cop who has ticketed a panhandler.
Then there’s the issue of this city’s chronically understaffed police department. Jones has been on the council for eight years, and in those past eight years APD has kind of disintegrated. The department once had almost 1,100 officers; it now has around 850.
Like her fellow councilors, Jones has done nothing to stop APD’s decline; in fact, by doing nothing, she contributed to the department’s implosion. So Jones helped gut the department and now she wants to give cops more work to do?
There are other problems with Jones’ proposal. Asking people for money is protected speech, meaning it’s free speech. And you can’t tell people that they can’t give their money to panhandlers.
Her proposal would also bar firefighters from passing their boots around for money in traffic every year. And what about all those people who wave signs on the sidewalks trying to get you to go into a restaurant or those tax preparers’ offices? They’re attempting to interact with and distract motorists. Would they be banned?
The answer is they would.
But the real nuttiness of Jones’ proposal is that she thinks panhandling is a priority for the very few patrol officers we have left, and that even if it were legal, that it’s workable with a decimated police department.
What world is she living in?
Latest posts by Dennis Domrzalski (see all)
- New Mexico Health Connection To Spin Off Into For-Profit Biz - September 27, 2017
- NMAG Demands That Analee Maestas Resign From APS Board - September 25, 2017
- Time Running Out For ART Funding - September 25, 2017