SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Eric Claussen is a traffic engineer with the City of Springfield. He swears the pedestrian safety ordinance the city just passed back in January was never aimed at panhandling.
“It’s simply a pedestrian safety ordinance,” he says. “The idea is that we want to try and keep pedestrians away from medians, islands, right in the middle of the traffic where people don’t expect to see pedestrians.”
But according to the ordinance’s text people are no longer allowed stand in the median of major intersections and they’re no longer allowed to move from the median toward a parked car in that intersection.
Still, Claussen maintains, the ordinance is simply focused on pedestrian safety. He also says its working. He notes last year there were seven pedestrian deaths. This year there are only three so far.
But how has it impacted panhandling?
Well according to Springfield police officer, Jacob Miller, the ordinance does, in fact, seem to be tapering off panhandlers.
Before you blame that on the fact tickets could cost “not less than $100”, consider this.
“Out of the 205 incidents that we actually contacted somebody,” he says, “reference issues involving the intersections and pedestrians and stuff, we’ve given warnings 120 times. We’ve given verbal warnings. You’re actually more likely to get a verbal warning from us than you are a ticket.”