Friday Question of the Day – Panhandling a Problem in DC?

by Prince Of Petworth January 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm 72 Comments

Over the holidays there was an interesting discussion on the MPD-1D listserv that started off with the following request:

“Please resolve the issue of panhandlers sitting in front of SW New Safeway!”

MPD responded:

First District members will use some of their persuasive talents to encourage these folks to go elsewhere; however, “panhandling” and loitering are not illegal in the District of Columbia. Aggressive Panhandling is a violation of the law, but this would involve an activity like using tactics that are meant to intimidate people. The City Council purposely did not make the mere act of panhandling a violation, so while it may not be conducive to the promotion of the area, we are limited in what action we can take. If the law was to change and panhandling did become illegal, we would enforce.

In addition to our persuasive tactics, it would help if the community not give money to these panhandlers. I stopped at Safeway myself the other night on my way home and saw at least 3 people give money to a subject panhandling. As long as people continue to give money to the panhandlers, they will keep coming back. The community could urge people that want to help the homeless to give money to organization that provide services to the homeless rather than to panhandlers.

A resident included this secton from DC Code for reference:

D.C. Code s.22-2301-2306 (Panhandling Control Act of 1993), specifically s.2302(a)-(h) which states:

(a) No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms, including money and other things of value, in an aggressive manner in any place open to the general public, including sidewalks, streets, alleys, driveways, parking lots, parks, plazas, buildings, doorways and entrances to buildings, and gasoline service stations, and the grounds enclosing buildings.

As stated the key words in the above code are “in an aggressive manner”. The Downtown BID shares a primer on aggressive panhandling here.

When I was in San Fransisco over the holidays I happened to notice the following plaque in front of a downtown building (see photo above as well):

So for the Friday Question of the Day – do you think DC Code/laws need to be updated to deal with panhandling? Do you think panhandling in DC is a significant problem in general? Do you think an MPD officer responding “First District members will use some of their persuasive talents to encourage these folks to go elsewhere” is a satisfactory way to deal with this problem (if you do consider it a problem)?


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