Last year, as he was sitting in his car in the Raley's shopping center parking lot, Galt City Manager Jason Behrmann was approached by someone who knocked on his window and asked for money.
Behrmann is not alone.
Michelle Weaver said groups of panhandlers show up in the same parking lot between 11 a.m. and noon daily. She has worked at Kidz Come First Daycare since it opened in December 2008, and she says she has seen an increase in aggressive panhandlers in the last 18 months, possibly because of the economy.
Weaver is concerned that the business's patrons are being solicited while carrying young children or bending over to fasten a baby in a car-seat.
"Some of our staff were paying them to go away so they would stop bothering our parents," Weaver said.
Although the Galt City Council last year passed an ordinance against panhandling and abusive solicitation, Councilman Mike Singleton said it is not enough and wants to see the law beefed up. A revision is expected to be placed before the city council later this month.
Singleton, Councilman Randy Shelton and Police Chief William Bowen recently met with the city's public safety committee to discuss how to get the word out that aggressive panhandling in Galt is not OK. Most of the input from committee members was similar to complaints Singleton has heard from citizens — that it is a nuisance and a safety issue, he said.
Singleton also held an informal discussion with business owners last month.
"It not only puts our citizens at risk for their safety, but also affects the store and our city from receiving revenue from the possible sales they might have received from those customers, who are now going elsewhere because they were accosted by a panhandler before they entered the store," Singleton said in an email.
During the holidays, he too was approached by aggressive panhandlers. Singleton said citizens have contacted both him and the police department about the same issue. They say panhandling is occurring at both the city's major shopping centers, one anchored by Save-Mart on C Street and the other by Raley's on Twin Cities Road.
Mayor Barbara Payne also said she's received complaints from youths who addressed the issue in letters sent to her as part of an "If I was mayor for a day" program.
The ordinance approved in February 2011 by the city council focused on solicitation at the Galt Market after abusive solicitation there had become common, according to Behrmann.
The three-page document addresses solicitation of money near business entrances and ATMs, among other problems. The first violation comes with a $100 fine, although Behrmann said he's not aware if any citations have been issued.
The city council would like to see an ordinance addendum. It could include an addendum to forbid panhandling or solicitation if a sign has been posted by a business owner on private property, or if someone like Weaver at Kidz Come First asked the offender to move along.
Weaver said the issue has grown in the last year and a half, and many of the panhandlers are repeat offenders she suspects hail from nearby adult group homes.
"If it catches a parent off guard if they've got a children in their hands or they're bending over, that's not fair," she said of panhandling. "It's a problem everywhere, but I think parents are more vulnerable. They're scared because they don't know if these people have criminal backgrounds."
One mother was recently called vulgar names while holding her 5-year-old because she wouldn't give a panhandler money, according to Weaver.
She's concerned it will affect business, as some prospective customers touring the daycare facility have asked outright how employees deal with the issue.
"I don't want that to be something that stops us from growing our business. Our parents are our customers," Weaver said.
Lodi's aggressive solicitation ordinance addresses violations after a person has been asked to leave, but only in food establishments.
Although any form of aggressive solicitation is punishable by misdemeanor, city spokesman Jeff Hood said the city issues only a few citations a year.
"I'm sure there are other incidents that aren't reported," he said.
Singleton said Galt's ordinance not only applies to panhandlers, but also to aggressive solicitors such as those collecting signatures outside local grocery stores.
"You should not be intimidated to the point you have to gain entrance into a store," he said. "The city has taken notice of this problem and as a council, we want to make sure our citizens stay safe.
"So we feel that if we address this issue now we can keep it from getting out of control and before someone is injured."
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.