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Sheriff asks for curbs on soliciting at intersections

Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades says people asking for donations at intersections are creating traffic hazards.

Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades says people asking for donations at intersections are creating traffic hazards.

December 11, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades asked the county to push for legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session that would either ban solicitation at intersections or impose regulations controlling it.

Mades said at Tuesday's Washington County Commissioners meeting that the sheriff's department has been dealing with increased problems, mostly with members of out-of-town groups, who stand along busy roads and cause traffic hazards while asking for donations.

"Groups like that drive us crazy," Mades said.

Some of the solicitors, whom he described as panhandlers, were found by the Sheriff's Department to be wanted in other states.

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He said the problem has been going on since June. Much of the activity happens at intersections near the Valley Mall, officials have said.

Commissioner John C. Munson said that some local nonprofit groups might suffer if soliciting donations at intersections is banned outright.

"We're going to hurt some charities if we stop it totally," Munson said.

Mades said that at some point the county either has to decide whether to put an end to it all together or create solicitation rules for the groups to follow.

While individuals may be charged if they interfere with the flow of traffic, there is currently nothing to regulate them while traffic is stopped, county documents state.

It would not be a problem for the Sheriff's Department to draft the regulations, which may include asking the groups to apply for permits in order to solicit at intersections, Mades said.

The commissioners may decide next Tuesday on whether to seek such legislation.

Mades said that on Saturday solicitors were "literally standing in the streets" near the Valley Mall because snow had been covering the medians where they normally would stand.

Another time deputies found four or five unsupervised cheerleaders whose ages ranged from 8-11 asking for donations. Mades said the safety of the children could have been at risk.

The Sheriff's Department recently told a traveling church group from Dallas to stop soliciting because its members were carrying out their business in the dark.

"Where does the common sense factor kick in?" Mades asked.

Mades called the solicitation an eyesore and said the Sheriff's Department has received several phone calls from people who also disapprove of the actions.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he thinks limits need to be set while the solicitation problem is still new to the county. If not, he said it may get out of control and force a ban, which would hurt fund-raising efforts of legitimate local groups.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said a reason why out-of-town groups are soliciting in Washington County is that people are giving them money.

"If people would stop giving them money, then they'd go to another area," Wivell said.

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