A year after implementing a city ordinance partly aimed at reducing panhandling on Lexington street corners, some concerns are being voiced about its effectiveness. A review of the pedestrian and traffic safety law came during a council committee meeting Tuesday. The ordinance allows for citations if solicitors get into the street.
Council Member Richard Moloney asked about requiring city permits for sign carrying panhandlers. Keith Horn, in Lexington’s law department, said courts generally take a dim view of laws which ‘outlaw poverty.’ “This is a big first amendment issue in terms of people being allowed to solicit contributions from people. So, it’s difficult to outlaw begging,” said Horn.
Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention Director Polly Ruddick says some panhandlers are becoming more persistent beggars. “We have seen more aggressive, I’m going to continue to follow you down the sidewalk until you give me a dollar. So we are working on a marketing kind of public campaign on how to handle that,” noted Ruddick.
Assistant Police Chief Dwayne Holman told committee members 182 citations have been written over the last year. Certain individuals were repeat offenders several times over. Holman noted the law was intended to prevent pedestrian related injuries and not solely to target panhandlers.