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City Council discusses panhandling ordinance

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Changes could soon be coming to Memphis' panhandling laws.

City Councilman Philip Spinosa drafted an ordinance about panhandling because he says he saw a need.

"It's designed to get people out of the street, out of the intersections, to protect the panhandlers and also the citizens," explained Spinosa.

Under Spinosa's proposal it would be against the law to panhandle between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. --peak traffic times.

A panhandler can not be within 50 feet of the entrance of banks, ATMs, and health facilities.

The list for where they also couldn't be within 25 feet is long but includes bus stops, any building open to the public, intersections with traffic signals, construction sites, marked crosswalks and entrances to the interstate.

If a panhandler breaks the rules, he or she is looking at a misdemeanor.

WREG's Shay Arthur asked Mayor Jim Strickland what he thought of the ordinance.

"Especially in construction zones and during rush hours so for my first read of it I do support it," he said.

Police Director Mike Rallings agreed panhandling can be a safety issue but said it's an issue that needs to be discussed.

"It's one of those tough things to try to have to manage due to manpower issues, but also just at the end of the day it's a $50 fine. A lot of individuals are homeless. They don't have the ability to pay the fine," said Rallings.

This ordinance needs to be read three times by the City Council before it can be approved.

During that time, council members can make changes to the ordinance.

The first reading was at Tuesday's full city council meeting.