CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Cedar Rapids police are asking the city to consider a new ordinance to ban aggressive panhandling, including the practice of holding signs with hard-luck messages asking for money from passing motorists.
Interim Police Chief Steve O'Konek will ask the City Council's Public Safety Committee on Monday to consider the ban, The Gazette of Cedar Rapids reported (http://bit.ly/OGny7V). The proposed ban would include requests for cash from motorists at intersections and entrance and exit ramps.
Committee approval would send the measure to the full council for consideration. The City Council declined to take up a similar proposal three years ago, saying it did not include exceptions for "worthy causes," such as the annual "Fill-the-Boot" campaign conducted at intersections by Cedar Rapids firefighters for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The newest proposal includes exceptions for charities, church groups, students soliciting for school programs, nationally recognized youth organizations and others approved by the City Council.
O'Konek said citizen complaints led him to again seek a ban.
"We've been hearing complaints from the public about people who are panhandling or approaching people at ATMs or outside of businesses and hassling them all the way to their cars," the chief said. "It literally makes people feel uncomfortable."
Violators of the proposed aggressive solicitation ordinance would be guilty of a misdemeanor.