The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

28 April 2005

Brother, can you spare a fiver?

The Downtown Guy wonders if the new "aggressive panhandling" ordinance is making any difference:

A friend told me he was downtown the other day, and was hit by four different transients in two hours. One made remarks about how nice this person's car was before asking for money, making him nervous about whether it would remain safe if the request was turned down. Another panhandler made a long pitch about needing money for medical help, while two others started walking at this person's side, trying to strike up conversations before making their plea.

At least two of these instances occured after dark. Police were nowhere to be seen. The downtown security ambassadors were nowhere to be seen. The new ordinance, therefore, was of little comfort to this visitor.

What's "aggressive"? This is the legal definition (§30-430, Oklahoma City Municipal Code):

(1)  Approaching or speaking to a person, or following a person before, during or after soliciting if that conduct is intended or is likely to cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm to oneself or to another, or damage to or loss of property or otherwise to be intimidated into giving money or other thing of value;

(2)  Continuing to solicit from a person after the person has given a negative response to such soliciting;

(3)  Intentionally touching or causing physical contact with another person without that person's consent in the course of soliciting;

(4)  Intentionally blocking or interfering with the safe or free passage of a pedestrian or vehicle by any means, including unreasonably causing a pedestrian or vehicle operator to take evasive action to avoid physical contact;

(5)  Using violent or threatening language and/or gestures toward a person solicited which are likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction from the person being solicited;

(6)  Following the person being solicited, with the intent of asking that person for money or other things of value;

(7)  Speaking in a volume unreasonably loud under the circumstances;

(8)  Soliciting money from anyone who is waiting in line for tickets, for entry to a building or for any other purpose;

(9)  Soliciting in a manner with conduct, words or gestures intended or likely to cause a reasonable person to fear immediate bodily harm, danger or damage to or loss of property or otherwise be intimidated into giving money or any other thing of value;

(10)  Begging in a group of two or more persons in an intimidating fashion;

(11)  Soliciting any person within 20 feet of any outdoor seating area of any cafe, restaurant or other business, automated teller machine, mass transportation stop, public toilet or pay telephone;

(12)  Soliciting any person in public after dark, which shall mean the time from one-half hour before sunset to one-half hour after sunrise.

At least we're not proposing to license beggars.

Posted at 10:13 AM to City Scene

In my north central Florida burg a similar panhandling ordinance is in effect. Law enforcement recently did a 1-night sweep and apprehended 9 violators who had something like 36 felonies between them. A portion of those arrested were in violation of probation.

When I am approached by a panhandler, the following silly statement, uttered as I hold up my cell phone, has gotten very good results: "Why'd you have to go and ask me that? Now I have to dial my boss." I don't know why they turn tail and disappear so quickly. Last time I checked, I didn't look anything like The Man, or even The Undercover Man.

Yesterday Governor Jeb Bush signed into law what is becoming known as the "Stand Your Ground Law". Now citizens have the right to shoot anyone that they *perceive* as threatening their person with severe harm or death. One wonders if the law will cut down on panhandling.

Some feel the law will embolden gun owners to shoot at scary-looking people more often. Others predict Florida streets will become "The Wild West".

So far nobody is being reminded that laws that govern the purchase, licensing, and carrying of concealed guns have not changed.

Posted by: hernesheir at 4:00 PM on 28 April 2005

Most of the gun owners I know are fairly restrained; they tend not to waste rounds on things or individuals that don't clearly merit them.

And, well, it just seems unsporting to take out a beggar. Still, if he does pose a threat....

Posted by: CGHill at 5:29 PM on 28 April 2005

My personal experience is that being armed results in less fear, which results in staying much calmer in a potentially dangerous situation. Knowing what one can do, if necessary, has the seemingly paradoxical effect of making one less likely to contribute to escalating a situation.

But if anyone were to ask a shao-lin monk, he could have predicted this.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:41 PM on 28 April 2005

I'm a relatively big guy, so this sort of stuff almost never happens to me.

Posted by: Ravenwood at 9:27 AM on 29 April 2005