Council to get strict with panhandlers

Council members will discuss the issue of panhandlers, how they negatively impact the city and a newly revised code geared toward a solution to the problem at tonight’s council meeting.

Councilman Don Monty said panhandling has been a city issue for years, so a way to get the offenders off the streets is needed.

The problem hurts city business and makes residents feel unsafe, he said.

“This has been an ongoing concern for several years,” Monty said. “It turns into a significant nuisance issue in the commercial areas, and it can really become quite annoying to patrons.”

According to the council’s agenda, the revised code’s change is one of location, and any person caught panhandling in certain areas will be in direct violation of it. The code states no person shall engage in panhandling when either the panhandler or the person being solicited to is on any publicly owned property. These locations include bus stops, train stations, taxi stands, bathrooms and other commercial or government establishments.

Monty said the areas were chosen based on the areas panhandlers conduct business most often. They are areas where panhandling hurts the city the most, he said.

“Generally speaking, the activity tends to go on in high traffic areas where people will be more likely to encounter people who might give them money,” he said. “I think if you restrict the activity from those high traffic, high visibility areas, then you’re much less likely to have the occurrence of the activity.”

There used to be no restrictions on the matter, Monty said, but more laws and revisions had to be made to keep up with the complaints presented by business owners, citizens and patrons alike as the problem persisted over the years.

“It has been an incremental thing,” Monty said. “There were restrictions put in place in hopes that that would deal with the issue, but then over time it became apparent that the restrictions put in place weren’t having the desired effect.”

Panhandling has been more of an issue as of late because, according to the agenda, offenders have started to make the transition from nighttime to daytime solicitation.

There could be many different reasons for this change, Monty said.

“Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe it’s because people are becoming bolder,” he said.

The changes will be effective immediately if the council votes to pass the revised code.

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at aflynn@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.252.

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