Anti-panhandling law in Colorado Springs

HOBOMATT@aol.com
Wed, 27 Oct 1999 23:29:36 EDT


The following appeared in today's Gazette 10-17-99 
No panhandling

Asking for a handout along many Colorado Springs streets soon will be illegal

By Raquel Rutledge/The Gazette
Story editor Cliff Foster; headline by Joel Millman

Making a buck in Colorado Springs will be tougher next month for roadside 
panhandlers, who face a ticket if they seek a handout.
The City Council voted Tuesday to make it illegal for anyone to solicit 
money, employment or any type of contribution from motorists on highways, 
entrance and exit ramps, and anywhere that "obstructs or interferes with the 
movement of traffic."

Asking for money or selling something will still be legal on public property 
as long as drivers have a place to pull over. That applies to people such as 
street corner flower vendors, for example. Violators could be ticketed up to 
$50. One more procedural vote is needed before the law takes effect.

Councilman Ted Eastburn opposed the measure, saying part of the problem lies 
with drivers. "If motorists don't roll down their window and hand out $5, 
there won't be anybody standing there," Eastburn said.

Police say the law will improve safety and cut down on panhandling calls, 120 
of which were recorded in all of 1998 and the first half of this year. "When 
we send an officer or roll out a fire truck (to a panhandling call) ... other 
911 calls are delayed in other parts of the community," Chief Lorne Kramer 
said.

But Steve Luera, a former homeless man who spoke to the council, sees the law 
differently.

"(City leaders) are just trying to sweep away something they don't like to 
see that's actually a reflection of what's happening in society," Luera said. 
"They're sticking their heads in the sand."

One man, who would give his name only as Bear, has staked out a spot on the 
exit ramp of Interstate 25 at Bijou Street for 15 years. Faded on the curb 
are the words, "Bear's Office."

"We're not all bums," he said. "We're just trying to survive. I'm trying to 
help myself."

Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace says she's "uncomfortable" with panhandlers and they 
project "a poor image of our community." 

"It's easy to say we're picking on the homeless or the poor people, but I 
don't agree," Makepeace said. "I've done a lot of work in human services, and 
I can tell you most of those people (panhandlers) are not part of our 
homeless population. I think this is a public-safety issue." 

 
     The panhandling law

How it works

Violators would face a criminal misdemeanor charge - same as that for 
fighting or trespassing - and be issued a ticket. The exact fine has yet to 
be set but probably will be about $50.

If the offender does not pay within the allotted time (likely three weeks) or 
show up in court, an arrest warrant would be issued. The next time police 
come in contact with the offender, he or she would go to jail.

When it goes into effect

A second, procedural vote is scheduled for Nov. 9. The law would take effect 
on or about Nov. 19. Police will warn panhandlers before they start issuing 
tickets.

How the council voted

In favor: Linda Barley, Joann Colt, Bill Guman, Mary Lou Makepeace, Jim Null, 
Lionel Rivera, Leon Young. Opposed: Ted Eastburn and Richard Skorman. 

Contact information
Raquel Rutledge covers city government and may be reached at 476-1605 or 
rutledge@gazette.com