Wichita law prohibits giving money to roadside panhandlers
Wichita ? Drivers who give money to panhandlers standing at intersections in Wichita could face stiff fines or even jail time under a new ordinance approved by the City Council.
The ordinance prohibits any exchange of items between a driver and a person who steps onto a major or congested street or intersection. It also bans drivers from giving something to someone in the roadway, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Previously, such interactions were an infraction with a $20 fine. The new ordinance creates a criminal misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously Tuesday, is meant to reduce accidents, said council member Bryan Frye.
Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said drives and panhandlers arrested under the ordinance likely will first face warnings, then fines, with potential jail time possible for repeat offenders. Panhandlers are more likely to be fined or jailed than drivers, he said.
“Hopefully we see the interaction and the person who’s cited will be the person who initiated that action, so, ideally, the pedestrian that walked out in to traffic, if they initiated that, they would be cited,” Livingston said. “If the driver’s initiating that, they could potentially be cited as well.”
Livingston said motorists were included in the ordinance to encourage them to focus on their driving.
The ordinance applies to charitable solicitations, such as firefighters’ collection charity “boot drives,” or fundraising by missionary groups or youth sports teams. Wichita firefighters this year moved their fundraising efforts to business parking lots.
A companion ordinance bars panhandlers from making physical contact, threatening or using profane language to try to prompt someone to give money. The penalties for that could be up to $500 and/or six months in jail.
“If the behavior is particularly aggressive, they’re not going to get educated first,” Livingston said. “We’re here to protect our citizens and make sure everybody has a safe, fun time while they’re out in the community.”