Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Chief Mew Talks About Panhandling, Syvinski Handling
Mew said no citations for panhandling have been issued yet, despite the department's vigorous effort to hand some out.
Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew said today that the department is ready to start handing out citations for panhandling at intersections.
But he says infractions seem to have dropped.
Mew also addressed how the police handled Byron Syvinski the day before the 32-year-old Midtown resident allegedly beat a 7-year-old girl.
Syvinski was arrested today on assault charges.
In an interview, Mew said no citations for panhandling have been issued yet, despite the department's vigorous effort to hand some out.
During a two-day warning period, Mew says he stopped a motorist he saw giving money to a panhandler.
It has been a different story since the department has been prepared to enforce the new ordinance:
Motorists seem to be complying.
“In general, we're seeing there isn't as much panhandling going on, on the corners,” Mew said. “And when we show up and watch from a distance, generally with unmarked cars, we're not really seeing the motorists handing out the money. The other thing that's happening is, while the motorist might not see us, because they're kind of passing through the intersection, they're not there very long -- just the length, the duration of a light cycle -- the panhandlers, they're street people -- they're fairly aware of their surroundings -- it doesn't take them long to see an unmarked sitting two blocks down the road watching."
That does not mean that APD is giving up on catching violators.
Mew views it as a public safety issue with two elements -- the danger of panhandlers stepping into traffic, and the passing of cash that he says most often gets spent on alcohol and drugs.
"We're going to take a little tack on how we approach citations here in the next few days. And we'll be even less visible than unmarked cars."
Mew also addressed the secrecy that police maintained about the behavior of Byron Syvinski on Saturday, the day before he allegedly beat a seven-year-old girl, seemingly at random, according to witnesses.
Syvinski contacted police four times on Saturday and eventually was taken into custody.
But police will not reveal what Syvinski said, where he was taken, how he was handled or who made the decision to let him go.
"You're asking me -- it's not your intent -- but to turn our hand, to tell the defense attorney months in advance the strengths and weaknesses of our case,” Mew said. “The time for that -- there's a time and process for that -- it's called discovery. And it moves with the pace of the courts. Not fast enough to satisfy the public's curiosity or the media's desire to report on the news. They bump up against each other."
Syvinski, who was hospitalized following his arrest, was released this afternoon and immediately arrested and interviewed, according to police.
He is in jail tonight, with an arraignment scheduled for tomorrow.
He is charged with third-degree assault, fourth-degree assault and first-degree robbery.