Panhandling in Rapid City isn't as troublesome as before - KOTA Territory News

Panhandling in Rapid City isn't as troublesome as before

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The Sioux Falls City Council wants to reduce the number of people panhandling on interstate ramps. Panhandling doesn't seem to be a large problem on the interstate in KOTA Territory, but that doesn't mean Rapid is free of panhandlers.

"We don't get a lot of panhandling, but more or less people trying to catch a ride out on the interstate," said South Dakota Highway Patrol Lieutenant David Berkley.

Berkley says the Highway Patrol receives a complaint about panhandlers once every six months or less. "I don't think in this area we have a problem with panhandling," said Berkley.

But when it does happen there can be complications. "It can be very dangerous, people standing on the exits not you know watching traffic maybe stepping out into traffic," said Berkley. "It can cause problems so that's when we'll go out and remove them from the highway for their own safety and the safety of the motoring public."

In Rapid City interstate access points aren't exactly a concern. Panhandling is more likely to happen downtown.

"We still get occasional complaints, but it was nothing like it was before," said Rapid City Police Captain Dan Rud.

In fact before the creation of the Rapid City Street Crimes Unit, panhandling downtown was a big issue. "The main issue was a lot of these panhandlers were aggressive, they were troublesome, at the time they were panhandling they were intoxicated," said Rud.

And Rud says a lot of panhandlers were asking for spare change for the wrong reasons. "They're not collecting the money to buy food or to feed kids or anything like that; they're doing it so they can collect money to buy cheap booze or cigarettes, something along those lines," said Rud.

A lot of downtown businesses would call with complaints according to Rud; such as the Public Library, but he says panhandlers are rare these days in Rapid City.

"I think we've succeeded," said Rud.

There are ordinances prohibiting aggressive solicitation in Rapid, which includes panhandling, and the penalty can be up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine.

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