What is aggressive panhandling?
Prohibited under the city’s aggressive panhandling ordinance:
• Blocking the entrance to someone’s vehicle or a building.
• Requesting money after someone has already declined.
• Making threatening gestures or comments.
• Asking for money at a bus stop or on a city bus, at a vehicle stopped in traffic, or within 20 feet of an ATM or bank.
• On private property without consent of the owner.
Colleen Sims says the story is common.
The Lawrence resident gets approached by a woman in the parking lot of a local store. The woman says she’s a victim of domestic violence and asks for money for a bus ticket or gas.
Sims, who’s encountered this several times recently, declines. She’s seen one of the women drive off in a newer car, and she said she’s offended by someone using domestic violence as a pretense for soliciting money.
“It’s more like scamming people,” she said.
Such behavior is illegal under a city ordinance — enacted in July 2006 — outlawing “aggressive panhandling,” because it’s being done on private property, said Jerry Little, Lawrence city prosecutor.
Panhandling in public areas, such as on sidewalks downtown, is legal as long as panhandlers avoid prohibited behavior such as panhandling within 20 feet of an ATM, blocking someone’s path, or using verbal or physical threats.
Rarely do such cases lead to prosecution, and Lawrence Municipal Court hasn’t seen any cases in the past six months, Little said. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and up to 30 days in jail.
Mike Bodkin, assistant manager at Kohl’s, 3240 Iowa, said the store occasionally gets complaints from customers with stories similar to Sims’. Annoying potential shoppers, panhandling is bad for business, Bodkin said, and his store will send out security when panhandling is reported.
Lawrence Police Sgt. Matt Sarna said police categorize calls about aggressive panhandling as “nuisance calls,” but they don’t have a specific designation for aggressive panhandling. In 2010, Lawrence police handled 476 nuisance calls, which usually spike in the summer months, Sarna said.
Sarna advises people approached by panhandlers on private property to “ignore them, walk away and call the police.”