- Associated Press - Friday, July 11, 2014

OGDEN, Utah (AP) - Ogden city officials are weighing restrictions on panhandling, citing concerns about public safety and traffic problems when drivers slow or stop their vehicles to give people money or items.

The proposal would not just apply to the exchange of money, but other activities such as distributing materials, gathering signatures, holding signs, demonstrating or loitering.

City officials said the proposal is similar to a new state law approved by Gov. Gary Herbert earlier this year barring panhandling and other behaviors that could impede traffic. That law is limited to state roadways.

The proposed city restrictions would limit panhandling on any roadways with three lanes or more and a speed limit at or above 35 miles per hour. It would also apply to roadway shoulders, gutters and driveways. Pedestrians and drivers violating the restrictions could receive a misdemeanor citation, with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Panhandling would still be allowed on sidewalks, but only if the vehicles involved are parked.

The proposal would also put a 10 to 15-foot buffer zone around bank entrances and ATMs where soliciting money would not be allowed.

Ogden-area panhandler Virgil Forsgren said he opposes any limitations on the activity because he does it to support himself.

Forsgren said he’s not homeless but uses the $30 to $40 a day he makes while panhandling outside shopping centers and big box retail stores to help pay for food and his $170 monthly rent.

Corrie Bateman of Ogden, spoke to The Standard-Examiner (https://bit.ly/1qNFmRs ) about the proposal while shopping at an Ogden grocery store where panhandling often occurs.

“A lot of the people who are (panhandling) out here are in immediate need of help,” Bateman said. “They’re pregnant mothers or veterans who need 50 cents for a cheeseburger. I think we should leave them alone and let them make their money - but you do want them to be safe.”

Tiffani Fredrickson, the manager of a nearby Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, said panhandlers regularly are stationed outside her business.

She said the restrictions will make the area safer.

“I don’t necessarily have a problem with (panhandlers) but I’ve seen so many close calls with accidents because they run out into the middle of the road to get money,” she said. “I see it almost every time they’re out here. I’ve seen the (panhandlers) almost get hit and I’ve seen cars almost ram into each other because they weren’t expecting the person in front of them to stop.”

The Ogden city council is expected to consider the matter at upcoming meeting but the matter has not been posted to any agendas.

Earlier this year, Utah lawmakers passed and the governor signed new state panhandling restrictions after a federal judge ruled a previous panhandling law was unconstitutional.

That law barred anyone from standing on or near a road to solicit money.

U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart ruled the law violated free speech rights and was so broad it would have restricted a child from selling lemonade on a quiet residential street.

The revised law now restricts the panhandling and other soliciation on highways, freeways and their shoulders, but not public sidewalks.


Information from: Standard-Examiner, https://www.standard.net

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