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Aberdeen imposes new restrictions on begging, lying on sidewalks

Begging and lying on sidewalks in Aberdeen is now outlawed in many instances, even though elected officials never looked at any actual data from police to make their decisions. (Photo: KOMO News)

ABERDEEN, Wash. – City leaders voted in sweeping changes regarding homelessness on Wednesday night.

Begging and lying on sidewalks is now outlawed in many instances, even though elected officials never looked at any actual data from police to make their decisions.

“They talk about our homeless people dying on the streets. Our businesses are dying,” Cheryl Hancock told councilmembers during the meeting, urging them to approve the restrictions.

However, just as many people spoke against the measures.

“Until we get a solution, arresting people for sleeping outside, criminalizing homelessness, ain't nobody got time for that,” said Emily Nilsson, another Aberdeen resident who addressed council.

Both ordinances ended up being approved by wide margins. Under the panhandling, or “solicitation” ordinance, as Aberdeen calls it, it is now illegal to ask for change from anyone near an ATM, a pay phone, a gas pump, a bus stop, while entering or exiting a vehicle, going into or out of a building, or before sunrise or after sunset.

Violators could be fined $1,000, although being cited for “coercive solicitation,” or aggressive panhandling, could carry a fee of up to $5,000.

The sit/lie restrictions prevent anyone from occupying a public sidewalk from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The rule only applies to the city’s downtown business district, but allows for several exceptions. It carries a $50 fine.

However, a request by KOMO News as to how many complaints police received revealed that no data had ever been compiled, because no councilmember ever asked to review it.


Council President Tawni Andrews said she based the ordinances on conversations with the police and fire unions, feedback from the community and on what other cities have done to confront similar problems.

“I went with what I thought was right and how I would best serve our citizens,” Andrews said.

Andrews said she modeled the new ordinances on efforts that have proven to work in other cities.

The new ban on sitting or lying on a sidewalk borrows many of its ideas from Marysville.

Puyallup provided the inspiration for the panhandling ordinance.

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