Some worried about ordinance to curb panhandling problem

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. It's unconstitutional for the government to punish people solely based on their status, which is why officials say they can't outlaw panhandling. They can however push to get aggressive panhandling off the streets of Grand Junction, but one local activist says there is no need.

"I don't think that we need a whole lot of new laws in general," Eric Niederkruger, Against Panhandling Ordinance.

Eric Niederkruger is confused by the introduced ordinance that will place restrictions on the time, place and manner of panhandling because it could interfere with more than just homeless people.

"Girl Scouts selling cookies, Salvation Army Bell Ringers, you're not allowed to do your job," Niederkruger.

This concern comes after reading the ordinance. If approved by the Grand Junction City Council it will prohibit panhandling after sunset and before sunrise, solicitation in an intimidating or threatening manner, obstructing a passageway in a public place and near an ATM, school, bus stop, parking lot or restaurant.

Grand Junction Police Department officials said the goal of the ordinance is only to prevent threatening behavior and as for charities and kids going door to door, officials said they are usually not the ones causing trouble.

"Most of the time those folks are in a location at the permission of a property owner we don't get much in the way of complaints about that kind of behavior," Chief John Camper, GJPD.

The complaints they are receiving are from people concerned about panhandling activity, more than 300 complaints in Grand Junction last year to be exact.

Complaints can occasionally be enforced through harassment laws, but officials say it's not preventative. There is a city ordinance already in place that addresses panhandling within roadway medians. Since it went into effect in 2009, officials have only ticketed six people. The success of that is why police want to have another ordinance.

The second reading of the ordinance is Wednesday at the City Council meeting when council will vote on it.

Opponents will also be holding a rally Wednesday at 4:30PM in front of City Hall in response to the City and Police Department's plan.


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