Waxahachie City Council members took a step to curb panhandling across the city with the passage of a new ordinance that regulates its practice.
The new ordinance, which passed Monday night, requires people to obtain a free permit from the police department. It governs the hours, locations, speech and the methods used to panhandle. A violation can result in a person being charged with a misdemeanor.
Waxahachie Police Chief Wade Goolsby told the council the department has received complaints about this practice but had no means of enforcement.
“For the last couple of years, the police department has received various complaints about panhandlers approaching people and using various stories to try and take advantage of people’s generosity. We really do not have an ordinance to address this kind of behavior,” Goolsby said. “What we have together with the help of our legal advisors is a proposed ordinance that will control that and give us the legal authority to investigate the situation to see if that person is being legitimate or if are they running a scam.”
Goolsby stated the ordinance is not intended to prevent people from asking for help, it is merely to provide some regulations to control aggressive panhandling or scams that take advantage of people’s goodwill.
According to the ordinance, panhandling is restricted between one-half hour before sunset and 9 a.m. the following morning and any time on Sunday. A person can’t solicit someone at bus or train stop, in any public transportation vehicle or facility, and in any vehicle on the street or private property unless they have the permission of the owner or occupant.
The ordinance restricts the methods of panhandling. Under the ordinance, a person panhandling can’t come within three feet of a person until they indicate they want to make a donation.
A person can’t block the path of an another while soliciting along a sidewalk or street, use profane or abusive language. They can’t panhandle in a group or two persons. Statements gestures, or other communications that someone might perceive as a threat are restricted along with making any false or misleading representations.
To obtain a free permit at the police department, a person must state their legal name, present photo identification, or sign a declaration that they don’t have photo identification. Then be photographed and fingerprinted.
People are ineligible for a permit if within the past five years they have two or more violations of this ordinance, had a permit revoked, or are convicted of two or more offenses that involve aggressive or intimidating behavior or making false or misleading representations while panhandling.
If the police department is unable to determine eligibility within 24 hours of the application a permit will be issued for 30 days while the process continues. A regular three-year permit is issued before the temporary one expires after eligibility has been established. A permit has to be kept on a person at all times while panhandling.
“The ordinance is not intended to prevent people from asking for help, it is merely to provide some regulations to control aggressive panhandling or scams that take advantage of people’s goodwill,” Goolsby wrote in a memo to council. “At this point in time, we have no ordinance in place to regulate these activities, and this ordinance strives to control panhandling without restricting an individual’s constitutional rights.”
Goolsby added the ordinance specifically does not include passively sitting or standing without making a specific request to any particular person. He noted non-profit groups that actively approach people on the street or in public should apply for a permit.
In other business the council,
• Presented a proclamation naming April as Alcohol Awareness Month to Impact Waxahachie and Drug Prevention Resources.
• Named Raymond Kennedy as the honorary council member for April.
• Approved an ordinance re-establishing classified positions under civil service.
• Approved to deny a resolution Oncor Electric’s application to change rates.
• Approved a contract with Brown and Gay Engineers, Inc. for utility locates and engineering design services for water and sewer utility relocation associated with the Texas Department of Transportation viaduct project along U.S. Highway 77 and Monroe Street.
• Approved a resolution authorizing the reimbursement of the operating fund from the proceeds of future debt for utility locates and engineering design services for water and sewer utility relocations associated with TxDOT Viaduct project along U.S Highway 77 and Monroe Street.
• Approved to award a bid to Circle H Contractors for water system improvements for the Katy Lake on the Green subdivision.
• Approved a resolution authorizing the reimbursement of working capital from proceeds of future debt for water system improvement for the Katy Lake on the Green subdivision.