In the last few months, police have received questions from council members and citizens regarding panhandling at Burlington intersections. Here is the response from Superintendent Al Albano of the Halton Regional Police Service. Further questions on this matter can be directed to Supt. Albano:
“Panhandling is a difficult issue to address and it is definitely becoming more prevalent. I can’t say with certainty why this is increasing, but an educated guess would be because they are getting money from Burlington residents.
I spoke to two panhandlers in August of 2017 at Guelph Line and Fairview. I had first watched these two individuals for a short period of time and they did not go on the road to solicit, just to accept money. They solicited from the median. They were also well versed in the law and knew they hadn’t breached it. They advised me that they work until they make $100.00 each and that usually takes them about an hour and a half. I was shocked at how fast they made that much money. I can also see why they would never leave Burlington and why more will come. I did ask them if I could refer them to any social service agencies and they politely declined. They said they were better off with the $100.00 each, which paid for a room for the night, food and cigarettes.
As for enforcement, the City of Burlington does not have a specific by-law to address this, but there is however Provincial legislation (Safe Streets Act). I have included a link to the statute below. The problem that police have with this legislation is that the offences are very clearly defined. For most panhandlers at intersections, they must being performing one of two actions to be charged. The first is that they must be soliciting in an aggressive manner and the legislation outlines specific examples. Simply standing at an intersection with a sign does not apply. The other action is characterized as solicitation of a captive audience. This includes while on a roadway to solicit persons stopped in a vehicle. The important phrase here is “while on a roadway”. Roadway in this statute means the same as the definition in the Highway Traffic Act. That means that a roadway is the travelled portion of the highway and does not include the shoulder, curb or median. The only time the panhandlers go onto the road is to collect funds, not solicit.
I agree that this could potentially be a traffic hazard but other than complaints from citizens that it may cause an accident, we have no evidence (collisions or injuries) to date, which would provide confirmation that these activities are hazardous.”
Superintendent Al Albano
Halton Regional Police Service
3800 Constable Henshaw Blvd, Burlington, ON L7M 3Y2
905-825-4747 ext. 2300