Marysville cracks down on panhandlers, nuisance properties

MARYSVILLE — The city now has more tools to reduce chronic criminal and nuisance behavior.

Two ordinances passed by the City Council on Monday enable officials to crack down on nuisance properties and on aggressive solicitation and panhandling.

One ordinance prohibits solicitation of pedestrians or motorists on public property after sunset and before sunrise.

It also prohibits solicitation and sale or distribution of any product or service on on-ramps or off-ramps to I-5 or state highways; within 300 feet of seven busy intersections along Highway 528 and State Avenue; plus the intersection of 172nd Street NE and 27th Avenue NE in Smokey Point.

“We really have noticed that there’s a public safety issue with panhandling,” said Mayor Jon Nehring.

Previous ordinances dealt with confrontational situations on public sidewalks, but people also have been approaching cars in traffic.

“The previous ordinance mainly covered aggressive soliciting — it didn’t really cover darting in and out of traffic,” Nehring said.

The second ordinance allows police to designate properties a nuisance when there is a history of repetitive criminal activity. Marysville has not had a criminal nuisance ordinance until now.

Owners of nuisance properties can be held accountable for activity taking place there. First, the city sends a warning letter stating what is required to clean up the property, which could include eviction of people living at or using the address.

Owners may be required to submit a compliance plan, and failure to comply with a plan can result in fines up to $1,000. In extreme cases, the city can do the evicting and can seal the property for up to a year.

“Our goal is to work cooperatively with owners,” Nehring said. “We hope we don’t have to take extreme measures and we hope it gets people to work a little bit more cooperatively in these situations.”

None of this precludes the city from also taking action for code violations. It was a series of health and fire code violations that allowed the city to clean out a notorious drug house earlier this year. That property was razed.

In that case, the city used code enforcement; the house had no working utilities. The city’s new Stay Out of Drug Areas ordinance also gives it the right to prohibit those convicted of certain crimes from entering the downtown area.

“We just needed to give our police an additional tool,” said City Council President Jeffrey Vaughan.

Combating nuisance properties and solicitation is complicated, Vaughan said, because criminals tend to go where they can operate with impunity. If neighboring jurisdictions crack down, they tend to find other places to go.

That’s what Marysville has seen, Vaughan said.

“Everett steps up their efforts and we see an uptick in Marysville,” he said. “It tends to move around to where there’s a path of least resistance.”

In that respect, the new ordinances are helping Marysville keep up with neighboring cities so Marysville doesn’t become a magnet for that kind of behavior.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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