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September 5, 2015

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County OKs ordinance targeting handbillers, litterbugs on Strip

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Leila Navidi

Handbillers outside the Flamingo just north of Flamingo Road on the Strip pass out cards for an escort service in May 2010.

Handbillers on the Strip, most of whom distribute “girls-to-your-room”-type cards to pedestrians, will now be legally responsible for picking up your trash – if that trash is one of their handbills and it is within 25 feet of the handbiller.

Responding to recommendations from a committee of casinos and county officials, Clark County commissioners Tuesday morning unanimously approved an ordinance forcing handbillers to clean up sidewalks within 25 feet of where they stand, and do it every 15 minutes.

Those handbillers, or “card-slappers” as locals call them, will have to pick up cards discarded by passersby who take them and then toss them on the ground.

In conjunction with that ordinance, the commission also approved its first no-littering ordinance, which most communities throughout the country have in their codebooks. That means if a tourist gets beyond 25 feet of the handbiller and throws a card on the ground, they could be cited for littering.

Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada said the telltale of the new law’s fairness would be revealed when tallies are taken of citations issued to both handbillers and tourists.

Allen Lichtenstein, ACLU attorney, said the biggest problem with handbiller trash was the lack of available trash cans on the Strip.

“If they only enforce this on handbillers and not tourists, a lawsuit would be inevitable,” he added.

He added that the Strip’s problem wasn’t so much the handbillers as it was general upkeep. For instance, he said, people don’t throw handbills into nearby trash cans because the trash cans “are overflowing.”

Addressing that shoddiness was the mission last year of a committee of casino operators, county staff and others. After meeting for months, the group developed several suggestions meant to get at what has been seen as growing chaos on the Strip. One of those suggestions, an ordinance adopted a few months ago, banned pets on the Strip during certain times of day.

Before other suggestions are codified, the general feeling among county staff is that a pedestrian study, which was commissioned months ago, needs to be finished. County Manager Don Burnette said that study would be completed in 30 to 60 days.

As the county works on the new laws, escort businesses – who hire the Strip handbillers – have been working with the ACLU and Las Vegas Metro police to address issues. Lichtenstein said the group was close to approving 20 to 24 ideas, all of which would be voluntary on behalf of police and the handbillers.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who was not invited to be part of the casino/county committee formed last year, said she wanted the county to be sure it knew what was going on in the escort businesses’ meeting before moving ahead with new ordinances.

“We should reach out from our side to be sure that we’re part of whatever meetings are going on,” she said. “Let’s be part of the solution rather than moving down recommendations from a committee.”

The ordinance as proposed wanted handbillers to pick up discarded cards within a 50-foot radius. That was changed to 50 feet on a public sidewalk. Then it was reduced to 25 feet. Mary-Anne Miller, county counsel, said 50 feet was first suggested after watching people deal with cards from handbillers: People get the cards, notice it they are adult-oriented, and typically throw them.

“It depends how fast someone is moving,” Miller added. “If someone is almost forced to take it and immediately lets it fall to the ground, it can be up to 50 feet.”

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