Dallas Approves 24-Hour-a-Day Panhandling Ban

Dallas has toughened its stance on panhandling.

The City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that bans people from stopping others on the street and asking for money 24 hours a day in downtown, Victory Park, Deep Ellum and parts of Uptown.

Panhandlers can be fined $500 for panhandling in those areas once the ordinance takes effect Jan. 1.

"We think it's very important," said John Crawford of Downtown Dallas Inc., an advocate of downtown. "People like to feel safe and secure both from a reality and a perception point of view, and panhandling unfortunately makes them feel uncomfortable."

The ordinance expands a previous ban on panhandling between sunset and sunrise in downtown Dallas.

It's no coincidence that the enhancements came before the Super Bowl crowd descends on North Texas.

"We want them to have a good experience downtown, and we want them to leave and come back with that experience in mind," Crawford said.

But business owners in another part of Dallas say they would like to see the ban expanded even further.

"It's annoying, and it's been an ongoing issue, and it's something I don't want our customers and our walk-up customers that are visiting us for the first time to have to see," said Dave Richardson, who owns Skivvies in the Cedar Springs business district. "We keep it pretty well taken care of during the day, but in the evenings when we're not here, sometimes there are more of them that collect."

Richardson said panhandling isn't a big problem in the area but wants to do something about it before it becomes an issue.

Deputy Chief Malik Aziz said Dallas police works with businesses to keep panhandling to a minimum.

"We send out our officers, they take note of different locations that have chronic problems and they address them," he said.

The area covered by the Northwest Division, including Cedar Springs, has the largest homeless population other than the downtown Central Business District, Aziz said.

The Cedar Springs Merchants Association is actively trying to push panhandlers out of the area with a patrol of its own.

"We actually hired a person that will patrol the street up and down, the sidewalk," said Scott Whittall, association president and owner of Buli's Cafe. "He's not a security guard, he's not a policeman. He's just someone that shoos people away."

Whittall said the private patrol works well and makes customers feel safer.

He said area businesses depend on walk-up business, which is partly why the association decided to hire outside help.

"As an association, we've really seen the problem increase," Whittall said. "Our businesses are a lot of walk-up business. We need the business to come in and out all day long."

Meanwhile, some of those who live, work and visit downtown Dallas remain skeptical that the panhandling ban will have an impact there.

"It's not going to work," tourist Jay Hoffman said. "You can always figure out some way to beat the system."

Dallas said it hopes the ban will deter professional beggars who make a living from panhandling.

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