Spokane, WA

An ordinance passed in 2014 as a response to large groups of individuals loitering in downtown has led to positive outcomes for downtown safety, says the Spokane Police Department (SPD) and Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP).

After experiencing ongoing issues with groups of individuals congregating and loitering, including harassment, aggressive panhandling, disorderly conduct and assaults, the City of Spokane worked with businesses and community groups to draft the Sitting, Lying on Sidewalk Ordinance (Spokane Municipal Code 10.10.026). The intent of the ordinance was to decrease the instances of disorderly conduct, ensure access to businesses and sidewalks were not blocked and help connect individuals to available resources and intervention services.

From February 2014 – when the ordinance was enacted – until October 2016, there have been a total of 92 citations issued. The number of citations issued have been rapidly declining since 2014. In 2016, there were on average fewer than two citations issued monthly (1.8).

The results for the last three years are:

  • 49 in 2014
  • 25 in 2015
  • 18 through Oct 2016

Of the 92 total citations issued since the ordinance was enacted:

  • 78 individuals are one-time offenders and have not been cited more than once
  • 10 have been cited twice
  • three people have been cited three times
  • one person has been cited four times

“The real goal is to connect people with services, keep enforcement at a minimum, and honor those in need with dignity and respect,” says Captain Brad Arleth. “I have countless stories where our officers have engaged with someone, connected with them on a personal level and linked them to the needed available resources.”

Under the ordinance, officers must give warning and provide reasonable time for compliance prior to enforcement. In addition, every citation and warning is referred to Community Court. Community Court is a specialized docket that uses a combination of a needs assessment, on-site wrap around social services and intensive case monitoring with the goal of assisting individuals with getting the services they need to put their lives back on track and break the cycle of offense. In addition to Community Court, Spokane Police Officers often refer individuals to SNAP, Catholic Charities, and other service providers, who then come make contact with those individuals in need.

“This ordnance has offered a very valuable tool for our toolkit, and fits right in line with our philosophy for how we help those who cannot care for themselves, how we provide hope and opportunity for those who can and ultimately consequences for those who refuse that help” says DSP President, Mark Richard. “Instead of ignoring individuals who may be in need of enhanced services, we worked very hard to craft legislation in partnership with the SPD and City that directs them to where they can go and get help, while reducing what can sometimes be negative and harassing behavior which deters visitors from enjoying downtown.”


Michele Anderson | Public Safety Communications Manager
Spokane Police Department | Spokane Fire Department

cell 509.742.0063 | office 509.622.5868 | mlanderson@spokanecity.org