The City of Concord’s Council Committee on Policy Development & Internal Operations will hold a special meeting to discuss the banning of aggressive & captive audience panhandling throughout the city.
According to the staff report, “staff is recommending that this Council Committee consider an ordinance prohibiting aggressive panhandling throughout the City, and also prohibiting panhandling (solicitation) of any kind in certain key locations—such as Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), seating sections of restaurants, retail business entranceways, and public transportation stops—where the targets are placed in a “captive audience” setting.”
While the Concord Police Department does not maintain statistics on aggressive panhandling, during Fiscal Year 2012-13, the Department received a total of 1,928 homeless-related calls for service, and of that number, an estimated 15-20 percent of those calls involved some type of panhandling complaint.
The City’s top locations for panhandling-related complaints are:
- Safeway (Willow Pass Rd.)
- Todos Santos Plaza
- Park N Shop
- Food Maxx (Clayton Rd.)
- Staples (Treat Blvd.)
The City says “aggressive panhandling directed at residents and visitors to the City of Concord unquestionably threatens their safety and welfare. Aggressive panhandling also undermines the public’s inherent right to use and enjoy public places without being accosted by persons demanding money or goods in a forceful manner. The actions of aggressive panhandlers likewise can create a climate of intimidation and anxiety among members of the public, who when confronted legitimately fear harm if they refuse to give in to the solicitations of individuals engaged in this type of conduct.”
Panhandling has been deemed by both state and federal courts as protected expressive activity under the First Amendment and the “liberty of speech” provisions of the California Constitution. Nevertheless, in 2000 the California Supreme Court held that limited, content neutral local bans on aggressive panhandling and captive audience solicitation constitute reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, and therefore are lawful.
Under the proposed ordinance, panhandling of any nature, aggressive or otherwise, would with certain exceptions be barred in the following “captive audience” locations:
- Within 25 feet of an ATM at any time when it is available for public use, or any bank, savings and loan association, credit union, check cashing business or similar retail financial business during its business hours.
- Within 15 feet of any entrance into or exit from any building open to the public, unless the authorized owner, manager, or supervisor of the business operating at the building grants permission to panhandle within the restricted area
- Within 25 feet of any designated or posted public transportation vehicle stop.
- In any outdoor or indoor dining area of a restaurant or other establishment serving food for immediate consumption if the person panhandling remains there after being asked to leave by the owner, manager, or supervisor (or their agent) of the restaurant or other food establishment, or by a peace officer, acting at the request of any of the persons specified above.
- In any parking lot or parking structure after dark (one half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise).
- In any public place after dark.
In terms of enforcement, staff suggests that violations of the proposed ordinance be punished as an infraction with a sliding fine schedule, depending upon the number of violations within a given period. Above a certain number of violations (three violations by the same individual), the offending individual would be charged with a misdemeanor.
The meeting will be held on Monday September 16th at 5:30pm in the City Manager’s Conference Room.
If approved, the proposed ordinance would then go to the City Council for approval.