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.