City leaders fear panhandling could prevent Indy from attracting big-ticket events

Officials want to create panhandle-free zone

INDIANAPOLIS - Between the national conferences and sporting events in Indianapolis this week, city leaders anticipate about a $15 million economic impact, but they say Indy won't continue attracting big-time events unless something is done to stop panhandling.

More than 50,000 people are expected for the National Society of Black Engineers Convention and the NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regionals.

Indianapolis leaders don't want panhandlers to be a part of tourists' experience in the Circle City.

"It was unnerving. It made me very uncomfortable," said Christine Liszewski, who's visiting Indianapolis from St. Louis. "We didn't want to walk around and try out different things because it was just unusual for us." 

City leaders are working to create a panhandling free zone to cut down on the practice.

"The folks who are panhandling in downtown Indianapolis, studies have shown, they're not homeless," said Marc Lotter, spokesman for the mayor's office.

Ballard's office is working with other downtown agencies to develop an ordinance that will stand up in federal court and eradicate what leaders say is a growing problem.

"I know for commerce and all that, you do not want anything that seems unclean or anything that might offend people," said Veronica Cornner, who's visiting Indy from Maryland. "I get it from that aspect, but I don't feel that way. It's normal."

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