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Panhandling a growing concern in Marysville

MARYSVILLE — “Whether it’s men in shiny white Cap’n Crunch outfits waving donation cans at 88th Street and State Avenue, or people brandishing cardboard signs at freeway ramps, panhandling is a growing social and public safety concern in Marysville and across the country,” said city of Marysville Community Information Officer Doug Buell. “The current sour economy has only raised panhandling’s visibility.”

Buell hopes to use recent complaints about panhandling as an opportunity to remind the city’s citizens about laws dealing with aggressive panhandling in Marysville, and about what they can and can’t do.

In 1997, based on a buildup of concerns raised by citizens and motorists, the Marysville City Council adopted “Pedestrian Interference” laws to address what was seen as an increasing problem with panhandling. Buell explained that the City Council, the city Attorney and key staff were careful to draft laws that would satisfy the concerns of constituents and survive constitutional challenges.

“In Marysville, it is unlawful for a person to aggressively beg or intentionally obstruct pedestrian or vehicular traffic in a public place by walking, standing, sitting, laying or placing an object in such a manner as to block passage by another person, or to cause a vehicle driver to take evasive action to avoid physical contact,” Buell said. He added that pedestrian interference is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 or six months in jail, or both.

If a panhandler or donation-seeker steps out onto a street to request money, or approaches you or your vehicle in a manner that you find aggressive or intimidating, and which blocks your passage, Buell urges you to call 9-1-1. To read the “Pedestrian Interference” laws for yourself, visit the city of Marysville Web site, at http://marysvillewa.gov, click on the “Government” button, then on the “Municipal Code” button, to pull up MMC 6.37 — Pedestrian Interference.

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