Texas
1:11 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

Dallas Ordinance Targets Panhandlers During Superbowl

Dallas is getting revved up to host Superbowl XLV on February 6, 2011, and yesterday the Dallas City Council voted to prohibit people from begging for change in the downtown business district.

NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reports the "solicitation free" zones will take effect on January 1 and include Deep Ellum, Uptown and Victory Park.

"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.

For a national perspective, we called National Coalition for the Homeless executive director Neil Donovan. He says cities across the country have used this measure but it often is not as successful as policy makers envisage.

"What we find around the United States is that every community that responds punitively by criminalizing the behavior of homeless people has found in the short term found failure with that approach. It doesn't work," Donovan told KUT News.

"Police officers become very frustrated that they are arresting and the person's out on the street. There's no ability to process these bench warrants that are in some cities, like San Francisco, literally in the hundreds of thousands. Bench warrant after bench warrant goes into mothballs and nothing ever happens," he said.

"There's a consequence, but it's not the linear consequence that politicians think that it would be. The consequences are felt by the police officers and the people on the street," Donovan said.

The City of Austin has its own downtown panhandling ban, which is in effect daily from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. A permanent ban was considered last year but didn't gather much steam, despite strong support from the Downtown Austin Alliance, a business group.

Check out KUT reporter Mose Buchele's report on that political battle from last winter.

What do you think about Dallas' panhandling ban? Should Austin's be extended 24/7? Or does that unfairly target the homeless?