January 15, 2014

Turlock City Council votes to ban aggressive panhandling

The Turlock City Council voted this week to ban aggressive panhandling, following complaints about people asking for money in ways that made the targets uncomfortable.

If you panhandle in this city, you’ll have to ask nicely.

The City Council voted this week to ban aggressive panhandling, generally defined as asking for money in a way that intimidates the targeted person. It also applies to people who try to sell goods or services in an overly persistent way.

“Basically, no means no,” police Capt. Carl Nielsen told the council before the 5-0 vote. He said the ordinance was crafted in accordance with court rulings that said simply asking for money is a free-speech right.

The vote followed complaints about panhandling, notably in downtown’s Denair Park. Violations can be an infraction or misdemeanor, but no penalties were listed.

The ordinance prohibits panhandlers or solicitors from intentionally touching or impeding the people they have approached, or their occupied vehicles. They must stay at least 15 feet away from the entrances to banks and other financial institutions, as well as automated teller machines. They cannot work public parking lots after dark or public buses at any time.

“This gives us a level of enforcement we don’t currently have,” Nielsen said.

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