Police Enforcing Tightened Panhandling Restrictions

By Chris Eidson

Published 03/18 2014 08:33PM

Updated 03/18 2014 10:15PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- You could be seeing the effects of tighter panhandling rules at Springfield intersections.

In January, city council passed changes to existing panhandling ordinances.

The council made amendments that basically strengthened the panhandling restrictions already in place.

Under the new rules, police began issuing warnings in February and tickets on March 1.

Panhandling is now prohibited within 20 feet from the entrance and exit of certain establishments.

Those include banks, ATMs, and many other types of places.

The new ordinance also created a clear definition of panhandling, which is very similar to solicitation.

And the biggest change is prohibiting aggressive panhandling within five feet of a curb, so on sidewalks, on medians, or the shoulder of a road.

That's where police say most people panhandle, especially near the freeways.

And where it can be most dangerous when people cross traffic.

We drove around to at least eight intersections in Springfield where you might typically see panhandlers.

We didn't find anyone out asking for money or donations.

Police have been issuing warnings since February 1 in order to make sure panhandlers know the new rules.

They don't have specific numbers of how many have been issued, but there weren't any panhandlers in the usual places Tuesday afternoon.

Springfield Police say these ordinances are typically complaint based, so someone might call in to let them know about a panhandler, but the officers aren't actively seeking them out.

Major Kirk Manlove tells us based on free speech rights as well as the difference between passive and active panhandling, there's a chance what the person is doing might not be illegal.

"There has to be a request for a donation of some sort, something of value. So someone playing a guitar and the implication that they're there for a donation, that's passive and that's not an active solicitation for a donation," he said.

If someone is ticketed for aggressive panhandling that charge is a misdemeanor.

That comes with a maximum fine of $1000 and no more than a year in custody.

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