Jul 26, 2014 12:43 AM by Maddie Garrett
Panhandling is a practice that continues to be prevalent in Colorado Springs, despite attempts to make soliciting on the streets illegal. Even though the courts ruled against an all-out ban on panhandling, there are still strict rules about where and what you can do when it comes to solicitation. Some of those laws are not commonly known, and they can be difficult for police to enforce.
"I used to just hold a sign asking for money, then I got my hands on a guitar," said Matthew Brovetto.
Brovetto plays guitar downtown on Tejon Street, with a sign asking passers-by for support.
"Ten years ago I met this guy, and he was standing by the freeway and he taught me out to fly the sign," said another homeless man, who wanted to go by John Smith.
Smith said panhandling is also how he makes money. And solicitation isn't just in the street corners in the center of town, said Colorado Springs Police.
"We've noticed that this has moved out, into further parts of the community, we've seen it up at Chapel Hills Mall, we've seen this at Citadel Mall," said Public Information Officer, Lt. Catherine Buckley.
No matter what part of town, the laws are the same for solicitation. But Buckley said those laws are often broken.
"It's one of those things it's hard to track," she explained.
The laws about panhandling are extensive. These are some of the main rules:
- Cannot be on federal highway or entrance/exit ramp
- Cannot be in a group of 2 or more
- Cannot be within 20 feet of an ATM
- Cannot be within 20 feet of a building entrance
- No soliciting at a bus stop, parking garage, parking lot or other parking structure
- No soliciting after dark
- Cannot be aggressive, vulgar, or ask someone more than once
- Cannot follow a person or block their way
Buckley said officers can write tickets for people who break those laws, like Friday afternoon, as an officer ticketed a panhandler for soliciting on the exit ramp of I-25 and Cimarron. But just as often, people get away with illegal panhandling.
"Some of the travelers and other people have given us a bad rep because they like to be vulgar, rude, lewd and mean," said Brovetto of panhandlers who break the rules.
Some people don't know all of the rules, like Smith, who told News 5 he didn't know that entrance and exit ramps are off limits to solicitors.
"That's a very good spot actually, I used to, years ago I used to fly my sign right on the highway exit at I-25 and Bijou," said Smith.
But for police, enforcing those laws can be difficult and takes up a lot of time.
"It's a very moving target, because a lot of times we'll set up those boundaries, and we'll communicate them to the panhandlers and they'll move on to a different location," said Buckley.
Buckley said the panhandling laws are in place to keep people safe. Officers recommend instead of giving money to panhandlers, give it to a charity that helps clothe and feed the homeless.