Plain clothes police officers perceived as panhandlers are cracking down on distracted driving in Regina, but there are concerns that using the tactic will put the city’s most vulnerable in an even more difficult position.
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On Wednesday, two uniformed Regina Police Service (RPS) officers, and a disguised officer holding a cardboard sign, issued 40 tickets for distracted driving and seatbelt infractions on Truesdale Drive in just one hour and 20 minutes.
RPS said they could have nabbed more with a bigger team.
However, Peter Gilmer with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry argued that using officers dressed in plain clothes and holding cardboard signs to catch driving infractions is “inappropriate”.
“Perhaps it gives a distorted view of both the level of panhandling, but also the reason for it,” he said.
Gilmer said panhandlers in Regina rely on the income from begging and RPS’s “intersection project” is damaging the already shaky perception of panhandlers.
“Certainly the feedback that we get is that there is hostility and I think this raises the level of hostility,” Gilmer said.
RPS said in order to crack down on distracted driving they need to stay creative. Other detachments across the country use similar tactics, including Vernon, B.C. and Steinbach, Manitoba.
“It’s very interesting to see behaviour when [drivers] don’t expect that the police are watching,” RPS Inspector Evan Bray said.
Panhandling is not illegal in Regina except for if the person is soliciting a vehicle while on a median.