Thursday, May 20, 2004

City panhandling law renewed for 2 years

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DOWNTOWN - Cincinnati City Council voted 5-4 Wednesday to renew for two years a law that requires people to get a license to ask passers-by for money.

The registration, which requires panhandlers to carry photo identification, is part of the city's law against aggressive panhandling.

Councilmen Jim Tarbell, David Pepper, Sam Malone, Pat DeWine and David Crowley voted for renewal. Council members Laketa Cole, Christopher Smitherman, John Cranley and Alicia Reece opposed the measure.

"It's hard to find a good reason to be against it," said DeWine, noting that panhandling is not as prevalent as a year ago. "Let's not change something that works."

Council members seemed to be in agreement that registration wouldn't eradicate panhandling downtown. But there was much debate about the overall effectiveness of the legislation.

Some council members said the law has benefited downtown businesses and has connected panhandlers who might be homeless, mentally ill or substance abusers with much-needed human services.

"Some people who didn't have a home now have an apartment," Pepper said.

Other council members said the law has only bumped panhandlers from downtown to other neighborhoods. Some said they thought the city's panhandling problem was a little better, but weren't convinced it was because of the registration.

Cincinnati police have made 155 panhandling arrests in nine months, including some people who were arrested multiple times.

"We can arrest all the people we want, but if they go back out on the streets then we still have a problem," Cole said.

Smitherman said he viewed the law as an infringement upon freedom of speech rights.


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