Indy leaders explore tougher panhandling laws

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INDIANAPOLIS – Some Indianapolis leaders are exploring options for cracking down on panhandling in downtown Indianapolis.

Local tourism officials say they’re hearing more concern about it from event planners in other states.

“It’s been in recent months that it’s come out that meeting planners are noticing and scratching their heads and bringing it to our attention,” said Chris Gahl of Visit Indy. “And therefore we want to bring it to the attention of our city leadership.”

State law already bans “aggressive” panhandling, which usually involves someone asking for money and persistently following visitors as they walk by. It also includes a person hovering around bus stops, ATMs and bank entrances.

The law also has different criteria depending on the time of day.

“During the day, you can ask for money,” said an undercover IMPD officer who often arrests panhandlers. “But once the person’s stated, ‘No,’ you gotta let them go. At nighttime, you cannot ask for money or anything of value at all.”

That same officer said many of the homeless men who spend time on downtown street corners know what they can and cannot do.

“They know the laws,” he said. “They don’t break the laws, they sit there and shake their cup, people give them money. We talk to them. Some guys say they make $100 to $200 a day doing that.”

A homeless man who wanted to be called William told Fox59 that he is aware of the barriers he can’t cross when relying on the generosity of others.

“As long as I don’t ask nobody for nothing,” he said. “I’m sitting on the city’s part of the concrete. If I sit over there, it’s illegal because I’m sitting up against private property.”

Making the daytime restrictions tougher to match the nighttime restrictions would require a change in state law.

But the more likely option of a tougher local ordinance is already being explored by Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. The group is looking at laws in other cities to see if they could work in Indianapolis.

“Whether it’s an area where all solicitation is banned, or possibly no sit, no lie, during certain hours, we don’t know yet,” said Fred Laughlin of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc.

A “no sit, no lie” law would make it illegal for people like William to spend his days sitting on downtown street corners, even if he’s not asking for money. When asked what he would do if that happened, he suggested that he could turn to crime.

“What else am I gonna do?” he asked. “I gotta survive.”

Laughlin said nothing has been made official. He would like to see a proposal presented to the City-County Council in the next two or three months.


  • liesel

    william…there are JOBS out there that you could WORK for money….get up and go get one of them there JOBS just like everyone else has to…

  • Dialthenumber

    Yes, get a job. If you're able bodied enough to sit on your lazy behind, you're able bodied enough to walk into at least a work ready agency. It gets pretty old paying for other peoples' laziness. Able to panhandle, able to work. What a loser.

  • Tony

    It isnt a city where someone can just walk in and get a job. I personally use a wheelchair and im a T4 paraplegic, no i dont panhandle, but i do proactively look for a job. Employers in the city of Indianapolis strike me as hiring on a buddy system. If they know you or someone they work with knows you then you'll probably get the job. If you want to do something about panhandling set up a system designed to specifically help those who choose to. panhandle.
    I also noticed they only spoke of ridding them from downtown. Is that only part of indianapolis that matters? Soo is ok to panhandle on the far eastside the west side, east washington, or maybe north? I didnt know they were only asking tourist for money. I would think the city officials should focus on more on hiring practices exercised by companies in indianapolis, or the crime rate which is out of control. Simply put, stop giving them money and they will stop asking. If you dont have the courage to say no then tough for you.

  • Joycw

    It is so aggravating to hear this story. In saying that, I mean why are they concentrating on the area of Georgia Street, and that area. The city needs to wake up and pay attention to other areas of downtown also. I know why they are focusing on that area, but the rest of downtown needs the same attention. Around the Central Library and American Legion Mall is AWFUL!! Yesterday I stopped counting at 30 when I was outside my building on a break. It is like that just about every day, and when the weather is better, obviously, it is much worse. They come up to us that out taking a break and ask for bus money, any change and cigarettes. We cannot enjoy a break ouside without them Most of these people are loud and obnoxious also, we can hear them from 2 buildings away sometimes, it has also been known for them to break out into fights among them. At least the panhandlers in the Georgia Street area stay to themselves for the most part, they don't here in this area. RARELY do we see cops patrol the area. Once in a great while the "Capital Police" will drive by. We have had to had them called many times. Heck at times also, they are laying on the benches and across the steps in people's way.

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