July 18, 2016 - 6:30 PM
VERNON - Kindness meters appear to be having an effect on aggressive panhandling in Vernon.
Ever since the bright orange meters were installed in downtown Vernon, bylaw officers have noticed a significant drop in aggressive panhandling complaints and incidents.
“The signage and the kindness meters seem to be doing a fairly decent job of pushing some of the panhandling from those locations where we were having significant issues,” the city’s manager of protective services Clint Kanester says. “I think it has really made a difference.”
In the first two weeks, the five kindness meters collected roughly 12 pounds of coinage. One pound of coins is, on average, worth about $36, Kanester says. All proceeds are donated to local organizations such as the John Howard Society, Upper Room Mission and the Salvation Army.
“My staff have even heard people say to panhandlers, ‘sorry, I can’t give you money today, I put it in the kindness meter,” Kanester says. “We love seeing people putting money in the meters because it’s going to the right places.”
Kanester says there has been a ‘noticeable reduction’ in the amount of aggressive panhandling taking place, and a substantial reduction in complaints about it from the public.
In addition to the kindness meters, the city also put up educational signage and stepped up enforcement on aggressive panhandling, which can include threatening actions, obstructing the path of the person being solicited, or using profane language. While panhandling is not illegal, aggressive panhandling is a violation of the Safe Streets Act.
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