Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard proposes ban on panhandling downtown

Ban would apply to verbal, non-verbal

INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard wants to ban panhandling in the city's busiest downtown area following long-running complaints from convention officials and city boosters about people begging for money along downtown streets.

During his state of the city address Friday afternoon, Ballard said he wants the City-County Council to create a "No Solicitation Zone" spanning a mile-square area of downtown's busiest areas.

Ballard's proposal would ban oral requests for money in the heart of downtown and passive solicitations across much of the city. Such solicitations are allowed under current city ordinance.

He stressed that the ordinance is not an attack on the city's homeless population.

"Studies show almost no downtown panhandlers are actually homeless. Panhandling downtown and at intersections is a racket and needs to stop," Ballard said.

The proposal would also expand the panhandling ban outside downtown from 5 to 8 p.m., and ban it near intersections, crosswalks, building entrances and parking meters.

Legal director Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana says Ballard's proposals would violate panhandlers' First Amendment rights, and the ACLU would be prepared to challenge the restrictions.

The proposed ordinance is also being questioned in the City-County Council. Council President Maggie Lewis questions the proposed ordinance on several grounds and wants to talk about it before Ballard asks for Democratic support.


"What is the message, that it's OK to panhandle and go outside of downtown? And so, once again, I'm interested in having that conversation and really looking into, is this legal to focus in on a zone or not," Lewis said.
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