The City of Tempe has been flirting with amendments to the city code designed to stomp down on “aggressive panhandling.” Since Tempe doesn’t have a very good or compassionate history with the treatment of homeless and street rats on their streets, I meet this sort of addition to city code with a great deal of skepticism when it comes to motives and ultimately its enforcement.
We shouldn’t forget the addition of “anti-sitting” laws to the city codes designed to criminalize sitting on the sidewalk–barring health concerns–after the City also changed the street layout to have less benches and seats (read: none.)
This sort of behavior from the council makes a grim precedent that ignores the reason why homeless people meet on Mill Avenue and adds to the danger of being without a place to stay at night.
I may be mistaken, but aggressively interacting with anyone is already something that draws the attention of the police and it’s already illegal. The added element of “solicitation” seems like it’s just an addition slapped on top designed purely to target street rats.
The last paragraph explains the underlying reason why we’re seeing this legislation in the City Council: businesses are upset that homeless street rats appear on the streets and would-be Scottsdale customers looking for the white-picket-storefronts would steer elsewhere.
This next part really gave me a chuckle: several people interviewed about aggressive panhandling on Mill Avenue also speak to the situation of street preachers.
Then again, Religious groups on Mill Ave and on ASU campus have been extremely aggressive in their proselytization.
It’s not uncommon that I park my cab and take the night in and run into these groups harassing people with their extremely loud speakers. Of course, the City of Tempe also recently passed a noise ordinance change that would quiet this excessive use of loudspeakers and bullhorns by religious groups.
Street rats, however, won’t have these sort of protections. Nobody cares about them. Knowing how the Tempe police have targeted them in the past using similar legislation means that they’ll use the “aggressive” portion of the new codes to sweep them up even if they’re panhandling without aggression.
I’m personally not sure where this will go and I don’t like the history of these sort of code changes shows–especially for Tempe.
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