Springfield City Council Works on New Panhandling Ban

By Linda Ong | long@kolr10.com

Published 01/28 2014 06:44PM

Updated 01/28 2014 06:51PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Springfield's City Council is working on enforcing new panhandling regulations that were passed Monday night.

City Council members say the goal is to address traffic and safety concerns resulting from panhandling, particularly in Park Central Square and major intersections.

Springfield resident Summer Ball said it's hard to run errands in Park Central Square without getting panhandled.

"On a weekday, before evening about six times," Ball said. "On a weekend, it's like you can't go two feet without somebody asking you for change or a cigarette."

Experiences like that, combined with increasing traffic safety concerns to both panhandlers and drivers, prompted the city task force to address the issues.

"It's an issue for that person's safety that we move the off the median to the area by the sidewalk," said Mayor Bob Stephens. "The primary reason is to avoid the aggressive panhandling that's going on down by the Square and Commercial Street."

The bill addresses both aggressive and passive panhandling. Aggressive panhandling is already illegal. The ban addresses passive panhandling, which is when a person solicits without a threat or verbal exchange. Passive panhandling will now be restricted within five feet of a curb.

Many residents say the restriction will help the public and panhandlers.

"There's not a lot of hassling, people can go about their day without feeling guilty for not giving change," said Ball.

Bob Wring is not a panhandler, but is homeless. He said the restriction will put a greater burden on the people who need the money the most.

"It's going to make it tough on them, definitely," said Wring. "You've got your street people who are really needing help out here."

Enforcement of the bill will begin in February, but citations for violations won't be issued until March 1st. In the meantime, Mayor Stevens said the city will work to educate the public on the regulation through press releases and public service announcements.

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