Las Vegas police step up ticketing of people feeding homeless

Updated December 3, 2018 - 12:15 am

Along Foremaster Lane near the new Las Vegas courtyard for the homeless, multiple white signs with big red letters bear the warning, “No parking stopping or standing anytime.”

So Joey Lankowski, 32, knew the risks when he parked his white RAV4 in the red zone on Wednesday. He said he’d been handing out food to the homeless there since the summer and hadn’t had a problem.

This time was different.

Within minutes, he received a citation carrying a $200 fine for creating a traffic hazard and blocking a fire lane.

Three marshals from the city and two Metropolitan Police Department officers stood by as Lankowski pleaded with officer John Purcell to look the other way.

“The only bad guys out here are you guys, coming out here and harassing good people trying to do a good deed,” he yelled.

Variations of the heated confrontation have been playing out frequently in recent weeks as police and marshals appear to have stepped up a campaign to stop the ad hoc feeding of the homeless by well-intentioned citizens.

At least 17 ticketed

In November, city marshals issued at least 13 citations in that area for illegal parking, compared with just two in October, city spokesman Jace Radke said. The tickets carry a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail, he said.

Metro also has issued at least four tickets there since Nov. 21: three for illegally parking and blocking the roadway, and one for blocking the sidewalk, department spokesman Aden Ocampo-Gomez said.

Radke said the officers aren’t citing the do-gooders for feeding the homeless, per se, but for causing a hazard.

“Every year during the holidays, we just get a lot of people out there trying to help and feed the homeless. They’re being cited for other laws that they’re breaking,” he said. “We appreciate when people want to help, that’s a great community effort, but we feel there’s a better way to do that than street feeding.”

Ocampo-Gomez, who once patrolled Foremaster Lane, said that in addition to creating a hazard for drivers and pedestrians, the informal feedings require the city to regularly send in crews to clean the area of spoiled food, feces, urine and trash.

Radke estimated that the cleanup of body fluids, wastes and discarded items and food on Foremaster alone cost the city $100,000 annually. This does not include costs for the regular cleaning of the sidewalks, he said.

There are also serious health concerns related to passing out food, said Larry Rogers, environmental health manager of food operations for the Southern Nevada Health District.

Some homeless individuals’ immune systems aren’t strong, and if food is not prepared correctly or sits out for a time it can pose a health risk, he said.

The trash also can also bring rodents and other animals that can spread diseases.

“There’s also the risk of (waste) getting into our public waterways and introducing pathogens into our community,” he said. “The best places that hand out food are those that have a fixed facility and the infrastructure to handle the distribution without causing a trash buildup.”

Pushing the courtyard

Though officials aren’t characterizing the recent spate of ticket-writing as a crackdown, some homeless people see it as part of the city’s effort to funnel them into the homeless courtyard, which was established a little over a year ago and began operating 24-7 in July.

Officials acknowledge that they want to encourage the growing homeless population — more than 6,000 countywide, according to the latest homeless census — to take advantage of the range of services there with an eye toward getting them off the streets. Those services include portable toilets, a shower, medical and mental health services, housing and employment assistance.

Citizens donating to charities and shelters instead of engaging in impromptu feedings can further that goal, Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said at a news conference with Las Vegas police the week of Thanksgiving.

“What we want to do is actually ensure (homeless people) get services so that moving forward we can keep them off the streets for the long term and get them the proper care and the tools that they need to be successful,” she said.

Many of the homeless living along the street said the tickets became more prevalent for those stopping to donate food right after the news conference.

Wednesday’s showdown on Foremaster between Lankowski and the police officers showed how high emotions can run on the charged issue.

After Lankowski accused them of targeting Good Samaritans, Officer Purcell pointed at the sidewalk, as a woman with a walker and headscarf shuffled around the crowd and into the street to pass by, and replied that Lankowski was endangering others.

“If someone gets killed, it’s going to be on your hands,” he said. “When you obstruct the sidewalk, then you’re wrong.”

‘We’re feeding our friends’

But Lankowski was having none of it.

“It’s just selective enforcement; those curbs are designed to stop people like us from doing what we do,” he said.

Another advocate with Lankowski, Josh Martinez, shouted as he filmed the marshals and officers watching the pair leave.

“They want to give us a citation just for simply helping you,” he told the homeless. “We’re feeding our friends.”

But the battle lines aren’t always clearly drawn in the dispute.

At one point a homeless woman in a headband and oversized sweatshirt defended the officers, saying they protect the campers from street violence.

“Do you respect that badge at all?” Kristina Katkus-Smith, 54, asked Martinez. “He asked you nicely to move out of the red zone; you’re parked illegally.”

Later, she acknowledged that she appreciates the motives of those making donations, but added, “If a semi comes around the corner, it could kill me.”

Deacon Tom Roberts, the president of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Foremaster and Las Vegas Boulevard North, said street feeding is not the most dignified way to help the some 1,000 clients who receive meals there daily and urged people to instead consider donating to charities and other organizations working to help the homeless.

“That’s the way that God intended to reach out to your brothers and sisters in need, not bologna sandwiches that sometimes make them sick,” Roberts said. “We want to get them off the street and get them inside. We don’t want to feed them on the street like animals.”

The majority of the homeless on Foremaster get their food from each of the three nonprofits in the city’s homeless corridor: Catholic Charities, which feeds from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Salvation Army, which offers lunch from 1:30 to 2:30; and dinner at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

A meal too far

But for some, the trek up the hill to the Salvation Army on Owens Avenue, or the 25-minute walk to the Rescue Mission on Bonanza Road, is just too far.

And homeless shelters start lining people in at 3 p.m., so those who hope to sleep inside have to forgo dinner to ensure they get a bed.

A high percentage of the homeless who gather around Foremaster Lane also are disabled, making the daily trudge between the charities a nonstarter.

“I can’t get nowhere,” said Joe Bridges, 59, an Army veteran with a scraggly beard and rotting teeth. Bridges uses a wheelchair that he can’t push up the steep incline to the Salvation Army. “I’m at the mercy of people handing food out.”

After losing his argument with police on Wednesday, Lankowski picked up the rubbish from the sidewalk and stuffed it in a trash bag. He said the experience wouldn’t stop him from doing what he knows is right.

“Next week, we’re going back with bikes and trailers instead of cars,” he said. “Something tells me they’ll show up and find a reason to obstruct us from being Good Samaritans.”

He then forcefully plucked the citation off his windshield, climbed into his SUV and drove off. As he did, two pigeons in a flock of about a half dozen noshed on discarded chicken nuggets on the sidewalk.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
Dan Barnson steps down
Arbor View football coach Dan Barnson stepped down Friday after 12 seasons at the helm. Under Barnson, the Aggies won 104 games and became one of the top programs in Las Vegas. The Aggies went 12-2 in 2018 and won a region championship for the first time in program history. Barnson loves Friday nights, but said the 12-month commitment was getting exhausting.
NFR 2018 Highlights
NFR 2018 highlights from every round of this years rodeo.
NFR 2018 Round 10 Highlights
NFR 2018 Round 10 Highlights of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas, Nevada. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
NFR- Joe Frost
NFR Bull Rider Joe Frost talks about the difference in bulls and his family legacy with Cassie Soto before the last round of the National Finals Rodeo.
Herm Edwards on LV Bowl loss
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards talks about the loss in the Las Vegas Bowl. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State linebacker George Helmuth after LV Bowl
Linebacker George Helmuth talks about Fresno State's turnaround. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Youth cancer survivor receives gift bat at Winter Meetings
Cancer survivor Steven Mondragon, baseball player at Los Altos High in Hacienda Heights, California, received a complimentary bamboo bat during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NFR Day 9 Highlights
Highlights from round 9 of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas, Nevada. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
NFR 2018- Will Lummus Leads in Steer Wrestling
As NFR 2018 enters day nine, steer wrestler Will Lummus continues to see his name at the top of the standings. Las Vegas Review Journal host Cassie Soto speaks with the Mississippi native about his excitement to be participating in his first ever NFR.
John Saccenti on the Las Vegas Bowl's future
Las Vegas Bowl executive director John Saccenti talks about the game's future. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
UNLV's Mbacke Diong on his offensive improvement
UNLV forward Mbacke Diong talks about his offensive improvement. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
NFR dirt is the most important part of the rodeo
NFR has bull riding, saddle bronc, barrel racing, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, and bareback riding but one of the most important part of the rodeo according to construction maintenance manager Allen Rheinheimer is the dirt that they all take place in. Review-Journal sports writer Ed Graney chats with Rheinheimer and ground man John Jamison to get an inside look at the dirt in Thomas & Mack at the National Finals Rodeo.
North Las Vegas Pedestrian-cyclist Survey
North Las Vegas officials are seeking comments from residents in hopes of bettering their experience in the city. An online survey has been set up for citizens to share their opinions and give their suggestions.
NFR Day 8 Highlights
Highlights from round 8 of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas, Nevada. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
NFR - Wyatt Denny Talks About Representing Nevada
NFR Bareback Rider Wyatt Denny talks to host Cassie Soto about being the only Nevada representative in the NFR this year and his skiing talent.
Junior NFR Offers Breakaway Roping for Girls
Unlike the NFR at the Thomas and Mack Center, the Junior NFR at the Las Vegas Convention Center offers breakaway roping for girls 19-and under. This event allows the young women of rodeo one more event to participate in, aside from barrel racing.
North Las Vegas Pedestrian-Cyclist Survey
North Las Vegas officials are seeking comments from residents in hopes of bettering their experience in the city. An online survey has been set up for citizens to share their opinions and give their suggestions.
NFR Day 7 Highlights
Highlights from the 7th go-round of the 2018 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
NFR- Jessica Routier
NFR Barrel Racer Jessica Routier talks about being at her first NFR, her horses, and her family with Cassie Soto in front of Thomas & Mack before round 7 of the National Finals Rodeo.
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
NFR Day 6 Highlights
Highlights from the 6th go-round of the 2018 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
Las Vegas Bowl Teams Talk Shop at Maverick Helicopters
Arizona State, Fresno State talk to the media at Maverick Helicopters.
NFR- Will Lowe
NFR Bareback Rider Will Lowe talks with Aaron Drawhorn about his 15 years at the NFR, starting to ride at age 7, and renewing his wedding vowels this year in Las Vegas before night 6 of the National Finals Rodeo.
Veterans Village
Veterans Village and Veterans Village II were created to assist homeless veterans get back on their feet. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday party cocktails
Veterans Village II Unveils Model Container Home
Veteran's Village II unveiled a model container home. The organization will be building 10 of these container homes to house veterans of the village. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
NFR Day 5 Highlights
NFR Day 5 Highlights
NFR- Kory Koontz
NFR Team Roper Kory Koontz talks about his years at the event since 1992, his dynamic with a 23 year old partner Dustin Egusquiza, and how he contines to perform with diabetes with Aaron Drawhorn outside of Thomas & Mack before round 5 of the National Rodeo Finals.
Meet the woman behind the Las Vegas Bowl
Melissa Meacham-Grossman is the associate executive director for the Las Vegas Bowl. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NFR Highlights Day 4
NFR highlights day 4
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Crime
Multi-agency DUI Strike Team focused solely on arresting impaired drivers
The newly formed DUI Strike Team made up of Las Vegas police officers and Nevada Highway Patrol Troopers have hit the streets looking for impaired drivers. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jury finds former corrections officers not guilty on all counts
Paul Valdez and Jose Navarrete, two former Nevada Department of Corrections officers accused of using unnecessary force on an inmate were both found not guilty on all charges after a jury deliberated less than 2 hours.
Henderson Constable appears in court
Earl Mitchell, the Henderson Constable indicted on four counts of theft and one count of fraudulent appropriation of property, appeared in court Thursday.
Former FBI agent recalls tragic case 20 years later
Timothy Blackburn robbed a Bank of America depository in December 1998 for more than $1 million — the largest bank robbery in Nevada’s history. After eluding authorities initially, Blackburn was caught and jailed at the North Las Vegas Detention Center. In August 1999, he escaped, guns blazing, with his wife’s help, and disappeared for weeks only to be found at an apartment near Boulder Highway. Former FBI Agent Henry Schlumpf, the lead on the case, remembers vividly the hostage situation that would end tragically. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officer Shoots Suspect in Nye County - Bodycam
A Nye County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a man Thursday night. Jason Paul O’Bannon, 46, died after the altercation with police. Reports of a man firing a weapon outside his house brought police to the scene just after 8 p.m. Detective Wesley Fancher fired the shot that killed O’Bannon, police said. O’Bannon had a “lengthy criminal history” in California and Nevada dating to 1988, according to police
Nye County sheriff news conference on officer-involved shooting
Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly details the police response as officers came under fire Thursday when a man was shooting a rifle in his yard. When the man pointed a weapon at an officer, police opened fire. The man died.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing - 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
The Mob Museum
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Man shot, killed by Las Vegas police after traffic stop
Las Vegas police give a briefing after a man was shot and killed by an officer following a traffic stop. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video of suspect in Home Depot parking lot shooting
A man who was injured in a Nov. 20 shooting in the southwest Las Vegas Valley died at a hospital Tuesday, the Clark County coroner’s office said.
Nevada Task Force 1 Dog Units Return
Four dogs and their handlers returned to the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday, November 29, 2018, after deploying to the Paradise, California wildfire last week. The dogs, trained in human remains detection, are part of Nevada Task Force 1, a Federal Emergency Management Agency urban search and rescue team. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police thwart brazen kidnapping attempt
Metro officers suspicious of woman claiming to be with Child Protective Services prevent possible kidnapping of three-week-old infant.
Shot Spotter technology used by Metro extended for another year
Gunfire location technology being used by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department gets extended for another year of evaluation.
Nye County pursuit ends in rollover crash caught by dashcam
A truck flipped twice before landing on its wheels as a driver tried to flee Nye County Sheriff's deputies on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018.
Nevada Highway Patrol stops wrong-way driver on Thanksgiving
The Nevada Highway Patrol has released dashboard and body camera video showing troopers deploying spike strips to stop a suspected impaired wrong-way driver early Thanksgiving Day. (Nevada Highway Patrol)
DUI sentencing
The parents of 8-year-old Levi Echenique speak after a woman who drove under the influence of marijuana and killed the boy was sent to prison.
3 Pahrump residents arrested on false imprisonment charges
James Thatcher, 28 of Pahrump, Chelsea Demille, 30 of Pahrump, and Sandra Wombles, 19 of Pahrump were all arrested after it was discovered that they were holding an adult female and male prisoners in their bedroom. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
2 kids struck by gunfire in North Las Vegas shooting
On Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, people opened fire into a residence in the 3600 block of Hamlin Place in North Las Vegas. Two kids were hit by gunfire and sent to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to North Las Vegas police. Anyone with information is asked to call the NLVPD at 702-633-9111.
Man killed during road-rage incident
Las Vegas police are looking for two men involved in the shooting death of a man outside a 7-Eleven story at Bonanza Road and Maryland Parkway on Nov. 12, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
16-year-old shot in North Las Vegas
A 16-year-old was hospitalized but was expected to survive after a shooting in North Las Vegas, near Centennial Parkway and Fifth Street, on Tuesday, November 13, 2018. North Las Vegas police spokesman Aaron Patty gives an update. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
3-year-old boy shot in North Las Vegas
North Las Vegas Police Officer Aaron Patty talks about an accidental shooting that left a 3-year-old boy “fighting for his life” on Nov. 10, 2018.
Senior Citizen Carjacking Attack -- 3 Suspects Sought
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police detectives are seeking the public's assistance in identifying the three attackers who carjacked and beat a 78-year-old man near Fremont and east Charleston on Tuesday. (LVMPD)
Henderson Police Department Chief Latesha Watson Talks Change
11-year-old girl shot, killed in North Las Vegas
An 11-year-old girl is dead after she was struck by gunfire Thursday night during a shooting in North Las Vegas
North Las Vegas police on deadly shooting
North Las Vegas police spokesman Eric Leavitt briefs the media about a shooting that left an 11-year-old girl dead on Nov. 1, 2018. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stephan Bonnar DUI Arrest
Stephan Bonnar arrested for DUI in Nevada.
Family members of murder victims talk about their loss
Family members of murder victims talk about their loss. Susan Nash, 52, was killed in a shooting along with her daughter and one of her three sons on Sunday night. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Sayegh Cold Case Turns 40
Cary Sayegh was abducted from the playground of the Albert Einstein Hebrew Day School in Las Vegas in 1978. His body has never been found. (File Photo)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like