Drivers, Panhandlers Could Face Penalties Under New Wichita Ordinances

Dec 12, 2017

Wichita City Council members passed two ordinances Tuesday aimed at curbing panhandling.

The first ordinance makes it a misdemeanor for pedestrians--namely, panhandlers--to approach vehicles on many city streets for the exchange of any item. The same goes for drivers who give something to a pedestrian. A violation could carry 30 days in custody and a $500 fine, up from the current fine of $20.

The ordinance also repeals permits given to charitable organizations that previously allowed them to solicit funds along certain roadways and medians.

Read the City of Wichita's ordinances here.

City documents say that between 2015 and 2016, there was a 15 percent increase in accidents involving drivers and pedestrians.

"I know similar ordinances have been done in Omaha and Colorado Springs," said council member Bryan Frye. "And they have been very successful in reducing accidents and making pedestrians and drivers safer, and that's really the intent of this."

A related ordinance targets "aggressive and harassing" panhandling, including touching, blocking someone's way, or using profanity.

Mayor Jeff Longwell said he's received several calls complaining about panhandlers getting increasingly aggressive.

"I get it that people are hurting out there, but this helps define the limits that they can go and I just hope that they don't continue to be so aggressive," he said. "So aggressive."

Messages written on signs won't be regulated, however.

Council members voted unanimously in favor of both ordinances.

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