Proposed Panhandling Ordiance Changes

Since my column came out yesterday, there has been a lot of good discussion regarding my proposed amendments to Rockford’s aggressive panhandling ordinance. Since I did not have space in my column to outline the specific changes, I thought I would make a document available that clearly outlined the changes I am proposing. The most dramatic involves the addition of a section prohibiting “False or Misleading Solicitation.” A similar section appears in Orlando, Florida’s aggressive panhandling ordinance.

I have submitted these changes to members of the Codes & Regulation Committee, as well as City Attorney Patrick Hayes. Mr. Hayes’ staff is reviewing my suggestions and they will get back to me with a “substantive response.” He informed me that the City Council enacted some modifications to the panhandling ordinance in 2005 and 2006, but I don’t know what those modifications were.

The reason I’m blogging and writing about this is because I think the public should have a chance to review and discuss proposed changes to the law. All too often, lobbyists and special interest groups push through changes that affect a large part of the community, and the public doesn’t find out about them until the changes come up for a vote (or even after they are passed). Click this link to download a PDF document that shows our current ordinance and the expanded ordinance with changes in red.

Strengthening Rockford’s laws against public nuisances like panhandling was just one part of my public safety platform when I ran for mayor. I believe these changes would be good for our city, and I will work to get them passed over the next few weeks.


3 replies on “Proposed Panhandling Ordiance Changes”

Thank you, Dan for your comments. I think making the public more aware of the rules regarding panhandling will help. Also, the purpose of my amendments is to give citizens and law enforcement more tools to deal with the problem. Currently, someone could walk around in front of your business and ask people for money all day long. There’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it (legally). With these changes, the panhandler could be told to move somewhere else or face a fine or other consequences. Same with those who constantly approach people with a fraudulent story.

So, to directly answer your question, I think anyone who is approached by panhandlers can inform them of the rules, or (especially) officers walking a beat. I’m sure they are familiar with who most of the panhandlers are. We’re talking about a limited number of people, so I don’t think it would be too difficult to inform them of the rules. The Rockford PD has a pamphlet about the current rules, but it needs to be more widely available.


#12 seems to make the most sense, as most panhandlers are within 50 feet of a business. However, increasing the distance to 40 feet instead of 20 feet from the current ordinance may have minimal impact. Although the proposed changes are well-intended, most members of the community will not enforce any sort of punishment for panhandling, and what should instead be done is putting more focus through the police force so that they have more of a chance to stop panhandling. Most panhandlers, from what I have seen, do not have the knowledge of what the ordinance is, and will not worry about the distance they are from whatever building, persons, or street they are asking for money or donations.

Within the proposed ordinance, I feel the greatest impact is “(e) False or misleading solicitation”. If I am not mistaken, this is a concept of being a con artist and should definitely be added into the proposal.

The key to this proposal is getting those who often disobey the ordinance to understand the consequences, which leads me to ask: How can we teach them? It is one thing to insert these changes into the ordinance, but are we going to wait for a panhandler to break the rule before we give them the knowledge of what they are disobeying?

Good work, Mr. Kleen, I have the utmost respect for the commitment you have to Rockford. Please feel free to explain more in detail your thoughts behind the proposal, as I am definitely no expert in city government issues. Take care.


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