Duncan panhandlers a safety concern: officials

RCMP are working with Cowichan Tribes to curb panhandling activity in the greater Duncan area.

RCMP are working with Cowichan Tribes to curb panhandling activity in the greater Duncan area.

Activity has increased with the warmer weather, police say.

“Cowichan Tribes has concerns that were discussed at the council meeting in regards to the panhandling that is happening on the highway,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour. “The first concern is in regards to the safety of the individuals that stand on the median to pander for money. Any time someone stands by a moving vehicle it is dangerous,” he said. “The second concern is that some of the panhandlers get aggressive and will not let someone go even when they are told no.”

In some cases, officers have had to intervene and protect the panhandlers as well, according to a press release issued by North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Krista Hobday.

Police actually have the ability to fine solicitors anywhere from $86 to $115 under the Safe Streets Act but at this point they’re more concerned about everyone’s safety, said Hobday.

“Standing on the median at Trunk Road and the Trans Canada Highway is not safe for the panhandler or the motoring public,” Hobday said. “It is a sure recipe for a pedestrian collision or a rear-ender. Contributing to this activity by making an offering only encourages the panhandler to come back tomorrow.”

There are other ways to get help, the release said, and the RCMP are not unsympathetic.

“The same individuals you see on the street with their hat in hand have the option to frequent the Cowichan Valley Basket Society (Duncan Food Bank) and other community resources,” said the release. “Cowichan Tribes offers food vouchers to those in need and The Welcome Centre has a breakfast program to mention a few.”

Further resources can be accessed by working with the folks offering those services, too.

“If members of the public would like to contribute to the food bank or other related charities, we encourage you to do that instead of tossing a Loonie into a hat at the street corner,” Hobday’s release said.