Cities take creative approach to ban panhandlers from intersections

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It’s something many of you see on your drive into work – panhandlers standing in the median, holding a sign, asking for money.

Kansas City officials are now looking at a new way to get these panhandlers out of the middle of the street.

It is not illegal for people to beg for money. The Supreme Court has ruled the First Amendment protects your right to fund raise and ask for money for any cause – even your own. But there are restrictions – and Kansas City Council members are now looking at a different approach to curb panhandling.

Just last month FOX4 reported aggressive panhandling is growing in some parts of the city.

Back in 2007, the city council passed a law prohibiting aggressive panhandling as well as panhandling in certain parts of the city, such as popular shopping districts such as the Plaza, Westport and Zona Rosa.

It also banned panhandling within 20 feet of many businesses.

But because the courts have ruled that laws made to stop panhandling are unconstitutional, Kansas City police rarely enforce them. So now comes a new idea.

On Thursday, the city council introduced an ordinance meant to keep pedestrians safe. It states pedestrians cannot stop in the median for any period longer than necessary to safely cross the intersection.

If passed, it would effectively prevent panhandlers from standing in the median to ask for money. They could still do it on the sidewalk – just not in the crosswalk.

Other cities are looking at creative ways to stop panhandling. Last December, Springfield, Missouri, passed a law saying motorists can’t give panhandlers money through their car window while driving.

This ordinance was sent to committee for vetting. The city council will then decide what to do with this.