- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - Davenport’s aldermen are discussing an uptick in concerns about panhandling in the city.

Two alderwomen brought up the topic during a Davenport City Council’s meeting on Tuesday after being asked by citizens about the city’s panhandling ordinances, according to the Quad-City Times (http://bit.ly/2fdPpit ).

City attorney Tom Warner said panhandlers can be cited or warned for standing in a median or interacting with traffic that is not legally parked.

Police Chief Paul Sikorski said the department has received more calls about panhandling, and that officers generally try to move people who are panhandling along. But he said its not the easiest thing to enforce.

“We usually make sure they’re safe and not going out into traffic contacting cars,” Sikorski said.

Alderman Ray Ambrose asked whether it’s possible the city can ban panhandling altogether, but Warner reminded the panel that it is a constitutionally protected activity.

Warner is looking at how Bettendorf handled their city’s panhandling issue, to see how he can put restrictions on Davenport’s panhandling. Bettendorf implemented restrictions including prohibiting panhandling within 100 feet of a controlled-access highway or intersection, roadway shoulder or median strip. City Administrator Corri Spiegel said that the distance separation can conflict with free speech implication, because it would regulate “where free speech can and cannot happen.”

Aldermen Rita Rawson and Mike Matson reminded council members to think about why some people resort to panhandling in the first place.

“I don’t think that everyone that’s panhandling is doing it for a negative reason,” Rawson said. “Just having a handful of people complain about it out a 100,000 people that live in Davenport, we’re talking about people’s lives here.”

Warner said he intends to meet with police to discuss enforcement.

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Information from: Quad-City Times, http://www.qctimes.com

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