Ballard plans to strengthen panhandling ordinance

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard wants to ban panhandling in the city's busiest downtown area following long-running complaints from convention officials and city boosters about people begging for money along downtown streets.

Ballard plans to propose the restrictions Friday afternoon during his State of the City address, the city said in a media release previewing the speech. He wants the City-County Council to create a "No Solicitation Zone" spanning a mile-square area of downtown's busiest area.

Panhandling, which is defined as a vocal solicitation for an immediate donation in a public place, is already prohibited in Indianapolis from sunset and sunrise, and at all times in many locations, including bus stops, bank entrances, ATMs or sidewalk cafes.

However, passive solicitation, which involves holding a sign or jingling a cup of change, is not regulated.

Ballard's proposal would ban panhandling and passive solicitation at all times in the heart of downtown and ban panhandling across the rest of the city from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. It would also ban panhandling at all times near building entrances, parking meters, crosswalks, intersections or off-ramps.

The downtown zone would be bordered by North, South, East and West streets.

City officials say studies show only about 1 percent of panhandlers are homeless and they recommend never giving money to panhandlers.

"Most panhandling downtown and at our intersections is a racket and it needs to stop," Ballard said in a prepared statement.

Legal director Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said Ballard's proposals would violate panhandlers' First Amendment rights, and the ACLU would be prepared to challenge the restrictions.


  • Bollards
    Once again, Mayor Bollard is more concerned about the city's image elsewhere than he is about those of us who actually live here. It's time to leave this dump. Everything is about image and it is not working. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to come here when the choices are San Diego, Miami, New Orleans and here. Get it through your thick Hoosier skulls. This is not a great place.
  • Re: @Pete
    Pete, I worked downtown for the last five years. I know very well the panhandlers and their turf. I've actually seen the ones I truely believe to be homeless seem to have disappear or die off. I know it is a nuisance and I fully understand. This is why I have never and will never give them any money. As I said before, the true way to combat this is for people to stop giving out money! Perhaps there could be a sting operation to find the "pimp" who the majority of these panhandlers work for and shut him/her down. That would be a much more effective use of $ than paying for a costly lawsuit from the blantant disregard of our first ammendment rights.
  • reply to Its a scam
    I believe that if you quit giving them money they will move on. Simple but yet effective tactics. Kinda like welfare pigs...If you quit giving free money and food people will find work.
  • ACLU
    If the ACLU is involved it cant be good. They propose that the illegals have more rights than citizens. Illegals have no American liberties or rights. They are also God haters which in my book makes them them the voice of satan.
  • ticket the money giver too
    Maybe the police should ticket someone for handing them money. If it's against the law, it should be against the law on both sides. I haven't read the article yet so I don't know what the mayors plans are. But if people didn't hand them money, the panhandlers wouldn't be there. You can't make it against the law one way and then not the other.
  • Yep, it's a scam
    If you don't think most panhandling is a scam, hang around and watch a few of them work the medians on the main roads. You'll find that they work shifts and are relieved on a regular basis with the next shift panhandler. They also seem to be well supplied with backpacks containing water bottles and snacks, the trash from which they leave in growing piles on the ground until the city comes and cleans them up. I don't mind the occasional panhandler, but when it's clear that they're actually working for someone who is undoubtedly cleaning up on the unreported cash donations their panhandlers are bringing back to them, it makes me a hell of a lot less inclined to give them anything at all. If Mayor Ballard was really serious about fixing this problem, he'd require that every panhandler in the city be registered and have to show proof of that on request. The registration could even be free of charge (surely we could afford to be that magnanimous). Either that, or ban panhandling in Marion County altogether, not just in the Mile Square. There's really no reason for it; shelters and missions for the homeless abound.
    • 'study says'
      I wouold Love to know about the studies that found that 1 % of panhandlers are homless.............'City officials say studies show only about 1 percent of panhandlers are homeless and they recommend never giving money to panhandlers.'
    • Where Do You Work?
      PJ, not sure where you work or if you get out of your office very much but I pass 4-5 evrey time I walk around down town. We have no loitering laws, surely we can move them along without trying to create new legisaltion. The problem is many of these folks are mentally unstable and should probably be evaluated. We have do not call lists in IN, perhaps we should all wear sandwich boards that say no solicitation. I think that might be okay with the ACLU.
    • Agree with ACLU
      It would be VERY tricky to write a legislation that does not violet first amendment rights. Although I dispise panhandlers, you can't take people's rights away. If you dislike them so much, don't give them any money!! They're only here and very present during big events because they make enough money to be worth it.
      • Convoy
        I say we charter several busses and move them all to a warmer climate. I don't know if these people are crazy, lazy or perhaps both. I do know that several appear to be capable of getting a job. At least they would be warmer in Miami. I have a right to not be accosted on the street by someone asking for money. I would pony up the fare for one person on a one way Greyhound to Miami. Anyone else?
      • Wheeler Mission
        I stop to ask the panhandlers, both men and women, if they know that the Wheeler Mission offers 3 meals a day, a shower and a bed, if they choose to walk 6 blocks to get there. They do, but they prefer cash.
      • At least they are asking
        I am not wild about pan-handlers and don't give them money. But you have to say in their favor that unlike the government, Federal, State,and Local, they ask for the handout, they don't make it mandetory. When the Simons wanted us to help with the Pacers, they got the government to force us to pay for that. When the Irsay's wanted some money, the got the government to force us to give that. Now after 100 years of an unblemished record, the Hulman's are doing the same. We allow the Churches to have property, tax free, make them as a condition of that tax break feed the poor. Government is too much about us being the servants of the elected when clearly it was meant, at least in this country, to be the other way around.
      • Other areas
        I agree with it. Except whenever they crack down on downtown, it sends them elsewhere - like Broad Ripple and Fountain Square. Could you include those areas? And thanks to the ACLU for giving me one more reason not to join them. They need to hear the story about the little boy that cried wolf.
      • For Jo
        I hearby pledge to organize a rally to support the pan handlers in the name of Jo.
      • What I meant to say
        Is I agree with Jo.
      • YES
        • Yes, duhhh?
          Whatever can be done to prevent this ongoing sham, because that's what it is.
        • Regarding Panhandling
          Please Mr. Falk of ACLU, give us a break! Please don't fight the mayors efforts! I am SO sick and tired of being hassled downtown by able bodied men and women for money. I do not even want to come downtown because of them and go out of my way to avoid them. What about our right not to be hassled every day?
          • really?
            I will admit that I am annoyed with panhandlers. However, writing the legislation will be tricky. Are you really going to write a law that states, "it is against the laws of the land to sit on the side of a sidewalk and jingle change in a cup"? Is this really a major concern that our lawmakers need to spend time on?

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