Tempe, Ariz., cracks down on panhandlers
A new law in Tempe, Ariz., tightens restrictions on aggressive panhandlers, according to television station ABC 15. Tempe joins a growing list of local governments that have enacted new ordinances limiting what people can do in public places, raising questions about how cities treat the homeless.
Tempe officials say their new regulations are aimed at tamping down intrusive or aggressive behavior. The ordinance prohibits people from approaching someone at an ATM, prevents them from setting up adjacent to a business entrance and prohibits them from approaching within 10 feet of someone shopping at a business or sitting out at a restaurant patio.
The law imposes up to $2,500 in fines and six months in jail. The measure goes into effect in 30 days.
Tempe’s law is similar to ordinances enacted in cities across the country, from Costa Mesa, Calif., to Las Vegas to Philadelphia. Various provisions have banned urban camping, limited homeless people’s use of pets to help them panhandle and prohibited parking a bicycle – a common conveyance for homeless people’s belongings — or even leaning a bike against a tree.
Local officials say they are trying to protect residents from harassment by panhandlers and preserve citizens’ access to public places. Civil liberties advocates say the restrictive measures criminalize homeless behavior, like panhandling, and violate free speech rights. Some local ordinances have been struck down in court.