- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - Officials of a city in eastern Iowa have given initial approval to an ordinance that would restrict panhandling.

On Tuesday, Cedar Rapids City Council passed a first reading of the mandate, which limits pedestrian access to busy roads without sidewalks, KCRG-TV (http://bit.ly/2tI8hie ) reported. It also bans anyone from standing in traffic medians or running into traffic to collect anything from motorists.

Council members said that although court rules outlaw panhandling rules, they expect it would survive a court challenge because the ordinance is focused on safety concerns.

Police said panhandling complaints along busy roadways have increased 63 percent since 2012. They said 25 percent of panhandling complaints involve a conflict with traffic.

“I’ve almost seen people get hit,” said Kris Gulick, a City Council member. “I’ve almost seen people get rear ended. Those are intersections where we need to make sure people are safe.”

The restrictions will focus on seven high traffic areas that receive the most complaints.

Resident Gary Clemons asked for spare change at one of these locations before the City Council vote Tuesday. Clemons said his health makes it difficult for him to keep a regular job and that he would have to find another area to go if the restrictions pass.

Resident Charlotte Martin said she views the action as a clear attempt to navigate around court rules that outlaw panhandling rules.

“I think it’s very clear their concern about safety is the smokescreen for their desire to get these people out of sight, out of mind,” she said.

Enforcement is expected to begin in August if the ordinance passes a final vote.

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Information from: KCRG-TV, http://www.kcrg.com

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