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Authorities to crack down on aggressive...

Posted at 5:31 PM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 18:31:50-05

An effort to stop aggressive panhandling passes through the Omaha City Council on Tuesday.

OPD wants citizens to know this will not stop people from panhandling, but they will get in trouble for doing it aggressively.

The city council unanimously approves an amendment to the city's aggressive panhandling ordinance Tuesday afternoon.

People looking for money wouldn't be allowed within 15 feet of someone at an ATM, to repeatedly ask for a handout when a person's refused, ask people stopped in traffic for money, touch or block the person being solicited, or follow someone after asking for money.

The ordinance initially would've made people register with police before being allowed to panhandle, but that was taken out because recent Supreme Court rulings in other states say stopping someone from panhandling infringes on their First Amendment Rights.

“Aggressive panhandling, intimidation, things of that nature will become illegal under this. It’s the best tool that we have to use now against aggressive panhandling,” said OPD Deputy Chief Dave Baker.

The issue of whether a panhandlers or anyone can stand in a median is being addressed through the traffic and safety department, and councilmembers hope a ban on people in medians could be in the works in the next couple of months if statistics show it's needed.

The ACLU of Nebraska had their concerns over the ordinance alleviated. Since they say it now has a proper balance of free speech and public safety,

The ordinance will go into effect in 15 days.

Omaha Municipal Code Section 20-7 says, “It shall be unlawful to engage in an act of panhandling in an act of panhandling in an aggressive manner. A person’s manner is aggressive if the person engages in any of the following.

  • Panhandling a person at an automated teller machine or other cash dispensing location from a location within fifteen feet of that person;
  • Repeated panhandling requests after a person has refused, ignored, or declined an immediate prior solicitation;
  • Repeated panhandling requests when the person solicited is stationary or in a line or stopped in traffic;
  • Touching the solicited person without consent immediately prior to, during or after the panhandling request;
  • Panhandling on private property without permission from the owner;
  • Panhandling while blocking the path of the person solicited or blocking the entrance to any building or vehicle; and
  • Following behind, alongside or ahead of the person solicited during or after a panhandling request”