Cedar Rapids Council to Discuss "Aggressive" Panhandling Ordinance

By Rick Smith, Reporter

A panhandler works the intersection of Collins Road and Center Point Road NE in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 11, 2005.

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The City Council’s Public Safety Committee has sent to the full council a proposed new ordinance that would outlaw "aggressive" panhandlers and those who try to collect money or donations at intersections, on highway ramps and in medians.

Committee member Kris Gulick on Tuesday said the council committee didn’t approve or disapprove the proposed new ordinance but rather wanted the full council to discuss and possibly vote on the matter.

For his part, Gulick said he is undecided for now.

The Police Department has pushed for the new ordinance after receiving citizen complaints about "professional panhandlers" who the department says often intimidate pedestrians and motorists. Those at intersections and highway ramps become a public safety hazard, the Police Department has said.

Gulick noted that the new Police Chief Wayne Jerman, who previously was assistant police chief at the Montgomery County, Md., Police Department, told the committee on Monday that the state of Maryland prohibits solicitations in the right of way of roadways.

Last summer, the council’s Public Safety Committee said it wasn’t opposed to the proposed panhandling ordinance, but the committee wanted to make sure that "passive" requests for help such as asking for directions to shelters and meal programs wouldn’t become a crime.

The proposed ordinance defines "aggressive" panhandling, in part, as intentionally touching another person in the course of solicitation without the person’s consent and continuing to solicit within five feet of a person who has declined the solicitation.

The proposed ordinance bans solicitation in any public transportation vehicle or at a bus terminal or bus stop; within 50 feet of the entrance or exit of a bank, ATM or check cashing business; within an intersection controlled by a traffic signal or within 100 feet of such an intersection; in the median; from the shoulder of a road; and on Interstate 380 or other controlled access highways.

A person commits a misdemeanor if he or she violates the ordinance’s provisions.

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