GREELEY, Colo. – Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner says he will ask city council to repeal the ban on panhandling because the ordinance is unenforceable.
Federal courts have ruled that peaceful panhandling is protected speech and that bans are unconstitutional.
“We just felt it was better to change the law,” Greeley Mayor Tom Norton said. “If you can’t enforce something, you ought to have the law changed to what you can enforce.”
Garner said police can still protect residents from aggressive panhandlers.
“Fortunately, we still have a couple of ordinances that we can use, like disorderly conduct, harassment, someone who is threatening you, someone who is touching you. All those are still against the law and all those things are things we will enforce.”
One panhandler, working a corner at 35th Avenue and the U.S. 34 Bypass, told Denver7 that it’s not easy asking for help.
“They make it impossible for people to help you,” said David Hercelbach. “You gotta go hide somewhere, where people can’t see you to get people to help you.”
Hercelbach said he rode to Greeley on a bicycle from Fargo, N.D. He said he’s going to Glenwood Springs but stopped in northern Colorado to raise some money.
“God Bless you sir,” he said to the occupant of a passing car who handed him three dollars. “Life is good man.
Norton said the city has received numerous complaints from residents who are frustrated at seeing so many panhandlers on street corners.
“They get upset,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Get a job.’”
“We understand that,” Norton added, “and we understand that some people just can’t get a job and you still have to be respectful of people’s first amendment rights.”
Some residents have mixed emotions about the panhandlers.
“I do have some issues,” said Farrah Storm-Serio. “I think some people take advantage at times.”
Storm-Serio said she has watched panhandlers get into cars after begging for cash, and has seen some of them go to a liquor store.
“So, I know they have money,” she said.
Still she is willing to help other who need help.
How does she make that determination?
“Just the vibe that I get,” she said.
Quincy Rogers said he too thinks some panhandlers go overboard, but is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
When asked if it bugs him that some panhandlers walk out into traffic, he said, “If someone is willing to help, I wouldn’t want that to be taken away from that person.”