Akron has had a panhandling ordinance on the books for several years.
Fairlawn, which is new to the game of regulating panhandlers passed its legislation last Monday, within 25 feet of an intersections, cross walk and several other public pieces of roadway.
When Fairlawn officials created their panhandling ordinances, which also require panhandlers to register with police department, they looked to Akron's legislation for guidance.
So we did some research, and below is a description of Akron's existing ordinance and an ordinance that's still on the table.
• People cannot panhandle after sunset or before sunrise on any street, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or other public property or on private property between the hours of sunset and 9:00 a.m.
• They are not allowed to panhandle people who are: at a bus or train stop; in a public transportation vehicle or facility; in a vehicle within the public right-of-way; within 25 feet of any entrance or exit to a bank or ATM; in or within 25 feet of Canal Park Stadium, the Akron Civic Theatre, Lock 3 Park, the Akron Art Museum, churches, or schools.
• Panhandlers cannot block the path of the person being asked to donate, and they cannot follow that person when they walk away.
• A panhandler cannot say that a donation is needed for something and then spend the money on something else.
• A panhandler cannot state that he or she is homeless if it isn't true.
Registration: Panhandlers are required to register with the Akron Police Department. They must provide a name, photo ID and allow the police to photograph and fingerprint them as well. The police department does not perform background checks, whereas Fairlawn PD does.
A panhandler's permit (which should be displayed on their outermost piece of clothing) will be revoked if he or she has:
- pleaded guilty to or been convicted of two or more violations of the panhandling ordinance
- pleaded guilty or been convicted of two or more violations of the panhandling ordinance regarding aggressive or intimidating behavior while panhandling
- had his or her registration revoked by the police chief
New (tabled) legislation:
Akron City Council tried to pass an ordiance last June that required panhandlers to stand 100 feet away from intersections, but it was tabled.
The ordinance, presented by Mark Freeman, Jeff Fusco and former Councilwoman Tina Merlitti, states that anyone holding signs is distracting to drivers and a hazard to everyone on the road (The legislation is attached to the media portion of this article).
It states people should "be able to move freely upon the streets, highways and sidewalks of the city without undue interference, and the drivers of motor vehicles should be able to proceed without distractions in congested urban areas."
It also states intersections put a higher demand on driver and pedestrian attention and more distractions in the intersections create dangerous conditions.
However the ordinance was tabled before council even got to vote because the Ohio ACLU said it was against First Amendment rights.
"Punishing someone for simply holding a sign is illegal, unnecessary and mean-spirited," said ACLU Ohio Executive Director Christine Link in a press release. "This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to ban all panhandling in Akron under the cover of safety concerns."
She continued, "Everyone wants safe streets, but there are already laws in place that prevent people from creating a safety problem on the roads. Under this proposed ordinance, there are few places to panhandle or hold signs asking for assistance in Akron."
The issue has not been brought back to the table.
So what do you think? Is 100 feet from an intersection unreasonable? Take our poll and tell us your thoughts in the comments.