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Watchdog column: Victoria residents complain of persistent panhandlers

By Victoria Advocate
July 27, 2014 at 2:27 a.m.
Updated July 28, 2014 at 2:28 a.m.


Know the law

It's unlawful for any person over the age of 14 to solicit or accept donations or contributions or to sell or offer for sale any goods or services on behalf of any charitable, nonprofit or religious organization or purpose from house to house or place to place or from a fixed location visible from a public street without first registering with the city secretary. If solicitation or sales are to be conducted at a fixed location on private property, the registration shall be accompanied by written, dated proof of permission of the property owner specifying the dates and location authorized.

Source: Municode Library

A man seemed to have a legitimate reason when he approached Kevin Clark asking for money: He was on his way home from his job at a local plant and ran out of gas.

He told Clark he would exchange phone numbers, and once home, he'd repay him - plus an extra $5.

Clark said no.

But the man pushed on.

"Come on, man, I know you got something - you're at the store," the man told Clark.

Clark, 29, didn't have any money on him, and when he said that, the man told him to go back in the store and get cash back from the register.

"I wasn't going to do that for a stranger," he said. "I told him, 'I don't know you.'"

That same man approached Clark with a similar story at H-E-B Plus! and Speedy Stop locations on North Navarro Street about a week later.

But Clark isn't the only one in town who's met the man or heard his tale. After posting a message on a Facebook group, "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Victoria Business," readers chimed in with their own stories.

"That happened to my husband last week," Melissa Carrera, 29, of Victoria, said.

Carrera said her husband was not approached in the parking lot of the H-E-B Plus! on North Navarro Street but inside the store. Carrera said the man asked her husband to use an ATM to get him the money.

"It is a safety issue because they are sometimes very persistent on trying to get money," she said. "You never know if they'll try following you, or if they're with another person that can follow you."

The city doesn't have an ordinance that prohibits panhandling on private property, but businesses and people may determine if they allow solicitation on that property. However, a person may not stand in a roadway to solicit, except those seeking charitable contributions with authorization to do so, according to Texas Transportation Code.

It is H-E-B policy to generally not allow solicitation on its property as well, and Wal-Mart officials said they typically ask panhandlers to leave and call the police if the problem continues.

If approached by a panhandler on private property, people should notify the property owner and call the police if they feel threatened, Victoria police spokeswoman Detective Tanya Brown said. Police will need a description of the person, including clothing.

Here are a few tips to remember if you come in contact with an aggressive panhandler:•  Remain calm. Do not get into a verbal argument with the person.

•  Continue to walk in the direction you were headed.

•  Don't give in. It is not wise to stop and take out your wallet.

•  Notify management or the police.

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