Proposed ordinance could crack down on panhandlers in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – You see them daily on street corners, medians and freeway on and off ramps everywhere.

Now, a city councilor wants to crack down on panhandlers who beg drivers for money.

“Everyday we see them, yeah, pretty much everyday,” explained Lluvia Lechuga and Cheila Cruz.

A proposed city ordinance is suggesting some big changes when it comes to panhandling.

Right now, the city has rules against aggressive panhandling and prohibits it all together on or near public transport, cafes and banks, or if it obstructs traffic.

“I go up Broadway and Cesar Chavez, there’s somebody,” said Kenia Martinez, “I go down Academy and San Mateo and there’s someone always there.”

Councilor Trudy Jones is the bill’s sponsor.

The bill would make it illegal for “any person to stand or walk within any street median,” or to stand on any sidewalk in order to interact with drivers or passengers.

The new rules would also impact drivers, making it unlawful for them to hold up traffic for the sole purpose of interacting with a pedestrian — as in, giving to a panhandler.

“It looks to us like another example of the city attempting to use legislation to move poor people out of general eyesight,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director, ACLU of New Mexico.

The ACLU of New Mexico says it sees a lot of civil rights problems with what’s being proposed.

“One of those rights is that folks have the opportunity to solicit donations as an aspect of their free speech,” Simonson said.

Under the ordinance, drivers at red lights who give money to panhandlers wouldn’t be cited, unless the light turns green and they’re still stopped.

Two years ago, the city posted signs at panhandling hot spots letting drivers know they could give money to charities that help the homeless and hungry instead. Those signs were part of the mayor’s “There’s a Better Way” campaign.

Read the entire proposed ordinance below, or click here.

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