Downtown panhandling ordinances not being enforced

SPOKANE, Wash. - A new law outlawing panhandling in downtown Spokane isn't being enforced even after the police department announced the creation of seven new positions Thursday for "downtown neighborhood conditions" officers.

When the ordinance went into effect last October, just two officers were assigned to the downtown area. Now that number has climbed to seven, but panhandling still isn't being treated as a top priority.

"We've been very call driven, and now that the chief has put us down here to start addressing the quality of life issues we can only do so much," said Sergeant Dan Waters.

Downtown panhandling ordinances not being enforced

For example, Thursday the team was asked to check out the Sherwood Apartments after a report that transients had broken a lock to get inside.

"I had some complaints that a lot of people were coming and going, people living in the hallways, intimidating the residents and just kind of squatting," Waters said. "Somebody went to the bathroom in the elevator and we found some needles in there today and stuff, so it's a huge quality of life and safety issue."

Safety is also the reason Waters said officers are now cracking down on cars that park in taxi-only zones in front of downtown bars. The city wants to make it as easy as possible for tipsy patrons to find a cab if they've had too much to drink.

"The city has set aside that space and they charge the taxi drivers a lot and to not be able to park and make their living and get people home safe, that's a problem," Waters said.

Drivers who park in taxi zones can get a $30 tickets and their cars can also be towed away and impounded. If that happens it can cost you several hundred dollars to get your car out of the impound lot.

Meanwhile police still plan on tackling illegal curbside panhandling in the future but it's still several spots down on the team's "to do" list.