A better place to put your change

By  | 

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - As much as it might be a nuisance, panhandling is not illegal in Rapid City.

For it to rise to the level of a crime, a panhandler must do something else illegal, like get aggressive or block traffic.

Curt Small, the owner of the Elks Theatre, says he believes the amount of panhandlers in downtown Rapid City has decreased in recent years. He credits that, in part, to the work of the Rapid City Police Department.

"It's pretty amazing the steps that they're taking within their toolbox to try and combat this," Small said.

Those steps include more RCPD officers downtown on foot, on bikes or in cars patrolling the area. Dan Mertz of the Quality of Life Unit says people can expect to see more officers as the summer comes and people spend more time downtown.

According to Mertz, the majority of people's interactions with panhandlers are non-confrontational, which makes them legal. However, he and Small agree that people's goodwill money is better spent going to an organization than a single person downtown.

"It's an unfortunate reality that when we do give cash to individuals that are panhandling, unfortunately the majority of those proceeds go to the purchase of liquor. It creates a quality of life issue in the town," Mertz said.