WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Tuesday, city council members voted 7-0 to raise the fines for panhandling and for local organizations who solicit money in the roadways. Law enforcement said there are a few reasons for this change, but the main concern is safety. Two ordinances passed Tuesday, the first prohibits pedestrians from soliciting money or rides from cars passing by. The other prohibits people from giving money to those in the roadways.
“When you put people in medians and roadways and their going in and out of traffic to exchange any item, that’s not safe for the pedestrian and it’s not safe for the drivers,” said Deputy Chief, Troy Livingston.
To make this point clear, the consequences are much higher for both those asking for and giving money. Instead of the previous fine of $20+ court fees, you could pay a fine of up to $500, spend up to 30 days in jail and have a misdemeanor on your record. So, when you decide to reach into your pocket, roll down your window and give money; think twice.
“The pedestrian that walked out into traffic if they initiated that they could be cited. If the drivers initiated that, they could potentially be cited as well,” explained Livingston.
KSN spoke with a man holding a sign at the bottom of a Wichita freeway exit who says, the donations he receives are critical.
“People are really good to me here, he said. “Every day of my life I can sit here and be taken care of, whether it be food or whatever. I get a lot of home cooked meals out here.”
With this new law, locations for panhandling will be limited. It’s no longer allowed where the speed limit is 40 mph or higher. There may be some concern about the negative impact that this can have on the homeless population, but experts stress that this is not the case.
“We were citing individuals who were panhandling. We documented 30 names. Out of those 30 names, I went through and analyzed them to see who was actually homeless and only two of them out of the 30 were homeless,” said homeless policing officer, Nate Schwiethale.
Law enforcement says they want people to know that this change is in effect, but they do plan to take the first year to educate people on the rules. However, they also say that if they do see any panhandlers getting aggressive, they will take action.