Handbill distributors on the Strip will now be forced to clean up the area where they’re standing to pass out fliers.
Clark County commissioners Tuesday approved an anti-littering ordinance that requires handbillers to pick up their own leaflets every 15 minutes in the area within 25-feet of where they’re standing on the sidewalk. Handbillers also will have to pick up their leaflets dropped on the ground by others. Passers-by who toss the literature on the ground outside of that 25-foot radius could be cited for littering.
The trash left behind by handbillers is one of the biggest complaints from tourists, commissioners said.
The ordinance will affect the so-called “smut peddlers” handing out leaflets for strip clubs and escort services and for nightclub operators, time-share marketers and others.
The punishment could be a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. State law already makes littering a misdemeanor. The ordinance is the first time county officials have passed a littering law.
Some handbillers said the law poses a risk for businesses that could lose customers while they are picking up trash. Others have said they should not be responsible for picking up other people’s trash. Some have said the change is a positive because it keeps the world-famous stretch of real estate between Russell Road and Sahara Avenue clean and attractive to tourists.
The ordinance contends that requiring handbillers to pick up their areas when leaflets are discarded in their presence “does not significantly impact the distributor’s ability to exercise First Amendment freedoms and provides a needed service to the community.”
But Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, took issue with the new law, saying the 25-foot radius could force handbillers to clean up parts of the street in the middle of traffic and lead them onto private property.
“Some people are going to pick up stuff, go onto the property of The Venetian and throw it down there,” Lichtenstein said. “You have a right to be on the public thoroughfare but not to trespass to pick the stuff up. If it’s interpreted that way, you’re going to break the law regardless.”
County Counsel Mary-Anne Miller said that the intent is not to have people policing other’s handbills and that the law is meant for the public sidewalks.
“What we’re seeing on the Strip are aggressive handbillers, not just adult entertainment people that are doing this, people thrusting them at their chest, they grab at it quickly, they continue walking so they don’t have to further engage,” Miller said. “Then they look down, see what it is, and decide immediately that they’re not interested in keeping this. It’s not the people who have considered a voluntary back-and-forth with people who are distributing handbills.”
Las Vegas police Capt. Todd Fasulo, whose Convention Center Area Command includes the Strip, said enforcing the law will require more time proving probable cause that offenders did not pick up litter within 15 minutes in the 25-foot area. The law goes into effect in two weeks, but Fasulo wants to have a warning period for a few additional weeks.
Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at email@example.com or 702-455-4519.