Transients ticketed for walking violations

Solicitation law might come back to council

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An analysis of pedestrian traffic incidents in Grand Junction since 2006 shows a dramatic increase in violations since the beginning of 2008.

Grand Junction police ticketed 17 people each in 2006 and 2007 for various walking violations, with a majority of the incidents falling into the pedestrian on a highway under the influence of alcohol category. Darting off the curb, failing to yield to a vehicle, crossing or walking on a highway illegally are also included in the pedestrian violation figures.

In 2008, the number of ticketed violations jumped to 64. Twenty-one incidents have been recorded from the beginning of 2009 to June 7.

More than a third of the incidents each year involved a transient or a person who listed an address as the Grand Junction Community Homeless Shelter, Rescue Mission of Grand Junction or Salvation Army Men’s Rehab. There is no way to know how many of the ticket recipients were soliciting at the time because police do not track that information because it is not a crime to solicit.

An ordinance rejected by the Grand Junction City Council Monday night would have banned solicitation within 50 feet of a controlled intersection or on a median “in order to preserve the public health, peace and safety,” according to city documents accompanying the ordinance. The ordinance failed, but city employees have been directed to revise the ordinance and it may come before council for approval at a later date.

Councilwoman Teresa Coons and Councilman Bill Pitts provided the dissenting votes for the ordinance. Coons said she wasn’t sure how 50 feet had become the safety standard and questioned whether or not the ordinance should apply only to solicitors if intersections and medians are dangerous for everyone.

More than half of pedestrian incidents since January 2006 involved intersections, and as many as 52 percent of violators were not homeless.

Fifteen (12.6 percent) of the incidents happened on or near the intersection of First Street and Grand Avenue. Another 5.9 percent of the incidents occurred on the streets surrounding Whitman Park. Also, 9.2 percent occurred in the 2800 block of North Avenue, the same block as Homeward Bound’s homeless shelter, or at the intersections on either end of that block.

Homeward Bound Program Coordinator Jordan McGinnis said the shelter discourages solicitation and asks people who continue to solicit to refrain from doing so near the shelter. McGinnis opposed the ordinance and a companion ordinance that would have banned aggressive solicitation.

The second ordinance, which also was sent back for revisions, would have made it a misdemeanor to solicit with a false premise, in a parking lot, on a bus, at a train or bus stop, in a street, while intoxicated or under the influence of other drugs, in groups of two or more, on private property without the owner’s permission, in exchange for services, aggressively, or within 15 feet of a pay phone, commercial vendor, building, public toilet, ATM, phone booth, and check cashing or financial business entrance.

“I don’t think the ordinance will stop the solicitors. They will probably move to Clifton or Fruita or somewhere outside city limits,” McGinnis said before Monday’s decision.

Grand Junction Police spokeswoman Kate Porras said the increase in pedestrian incidents is a coincidence and not the result of any police effort to profile the homeless or step up enforcement on certain violations.

“It just happened to be that we had more at that time,” Porras said. “It doesn’t mean it’s one kind of person or another. It could be anybody.”


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