Panhandlers are seen across the Valley asking for money. Some are polite and just down on their luck, but others are more aggressive. And Tempe says those panhandlers are becoming such a problem the city council cracked down on them tonight.
The city council has worried that aggressive panhandlers are deterring people from visiting Mill Avenue, which fell on hard times during the economic collapse. They hope by strengthening the laws, people won't worry about getting followed or heckled.
Thursday night, the council amended the current panhandling ordinance. In addition to not being aggressive, hanging near 15 feet of a bank or ATM, or soliciting on or near a bus, now they can't be within 15 feet of any transit stops or taxi stands or within 10 feet of people hanging out in a business, like on a patio. And they can't block people from entering or leaving a business.
Some people on Mill Avenue we talked to said they've had some uncomfortable moments, but others haven't noticed a problem.
One woman we talked with, Siboney Corella, said one night a panhandler started following her and a friend and yelling at them.
"After that, I feel it's better for safety reasons to be in a larger group," she said. "It was just her and I. I guess it's deterred us a little bit."
"They're usually pretty nice. They don't cause too much (sic) problems, they just ask," Nicholas Fiano said.
"There is some aggressiveness in terms of being pushy and how to do it, and sometimes we hear from business owners that they are blocking the entrance into their business or establishment, so we listened to our businesses. We're looking at a trial run," said Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell.
The changes to the ordinance will be in effect in 30 days. We asked city officials what the punishment will be if someone violates this ordinance, and we're told they can get that information for us Friday.
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