Not Catering to Panhandlers | VideoJoel Porter | 10/8/2012
North Dakota is a generous place. Some say too generous. And people who hold out their hands could soon receive a $50 fine.
"We want to be fair to our businesses while still giving these individuals the opportunity to panhandle. So, they`re not banned from panhandling, but they don`t get to choose each and every spot where they`d like to panhandle," said city commissioner Parrell Grossman.
Panhandling is not illegal. However, the city says in some places, those asking for money are putting themselves and drivers in danger.
"It`s simply time to put in some restrictions that protect the public. It`s not appropriate to have panhandlers standing in intersections or right off the interstate," said Grossman.
The new draft of the ordinance makes it illegal to panhandle within 20 feet of an intersection or a highway off ramp, within 20 feet of a bus stop, crosswalk, a public restroom, a park, anywhere downtown, or within 20 feet of a shopping center.
"I think it gives our officers another tool to say if it doesn`t reach the level of disorderly conduct, does it still violate the statute that says you shouldn`t be coercing people or trying to force people into giving money if they don`t really want to," said commissioner Josh Askvig.
"I think it`d give it a little more teeth for us. And then we`re going to also be able to cite these people for violations," said Randy Zeigler with the Bismarck Police Department.
Those who threaten or intimidate people into giving money could be cited for aggressive panhandling, an arrestable offense with a $500 fine.
The new enforcement wouldn`t go into effect until the final passage of the ordinance. Bismarck city commissioners will discuss the issue at tomorrow evening`s meeting.