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Some facts about panhandlers:
2/7/2012 2:09:00 PM


Re: Lee J. Pappas' letter 'Panhandlers are Trespassing'


Trespassing is not always easy to recognize


California's trespassing laws are some of the most complex rules on the books.  There are dozens of individual statutes that address many different trespassing-related issues ranging from private residences to motels, schools, hospitals, and private businesses.  Absent from the trespassing statutes, are laws addressing trespassing on the grounds of shopping centers.  In the eyes of the law, and several court decisions, shopping centers open to the general public are considered gathering places for the community, very similar to an old town square where people can meet and interact.  With very few exceptions, unless a person is committing a violation of another law or interferes with lawful business being conducted on the property, they are permitted to move freely on the property of a shopping center open to the general public.

What about panhandling on the property of shopping centers'  With the economic slowdown we have seen an increase in the number of people in our community soliciting funds for themselves or charitable organizations.  While there are no state laws prohibiting the solicitation of funds, many communities have local ordinances that prohibit aggressive panhandling.  Deputies continue to respond to these calls and enforce ordinances, where they legally apply, whenever such situations occur.  However, non-aggressive panhandling generally is not unlawful and can therefore be conducted on the property of shopping centers, as long as it does not interfere with business on the property.

In Mr. Pappas' situation, deputies and legal staff have met with him on multiple occasions over the past two years and listened to his concerns, which involve passive, non-aggressive panhandling on the grounds of shopping centers.  Each case was evaluated on its own merits and my staff, working closely with the District Attorney's Office and Thousand Oaks City Attorney's Office, rightfully concluded no criminal conduct had occurred.  Our analysis of the situation was thoroughly explained to Mr. Pappas in person and in writing. 

Law Enforcement's role is to enforce the laws put before us by our legislative bodies.  It is not law enforcements role, and should never be, to take the interpretation and application of the law into our own hands.  We will continue to lawfully enforce all applicable laws and aggressively work to keep our communities some of the safest in the nation while striving to ensure we do not impinge on the constitutional guarantees we are sworn to protect.


Geoff Dean, Sheriff