Critics target proposed panhandling ordinance’s wording ahead of council vote

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Panhandlers will be under the microscope while the Rapid City Common Council decides whether or not to redefine “aggressive solicitation”.

Members of the public are taking sides on the proposed Ordinance 6303 – a provision to repeal and replace an older ordinance prohibiting aggressive forms of solicitation.

Currently, this includes: intimidating someone to give up any items; touching someone without their consent while asking for items; and following, threatening or blocking their passage while soliciting.

The specifics are in Rapid City Municipal Code 9.08.020; what constitutes “aggressive soliciting” and “the act of soliciting” are clearly and fully defined, as shown below:

However, some against the new policy say there’s too much room for interpretation.

The proposal became a main focus for One Rapid City, a homeless persons advocacy group, during one of their meetings on Saturday.

Co-founder Karissa Loewen believes that “many pieces of the ordinance … [are] completely subjective on whether someone else feels fear.”

Looking at the proposed paper, the same principles forbidding a person from unlawfully asking for another’s belongings still apply, though it nixes all variations of the term “solicit”.

What worries opponents is the simplicity of certain parts of the proposal’s wording:

One Rapid City fears that this could still easily include unlawful and lawful solicitation.

“It’s very vague. They don’t specifically list what conduct is not allowed, and so it’s completely based upon the reaction of another individual and how they feel – how they perceive it.”

Those in favor of the ordinance believe there are enough humanitarian programs in place to provide for anyone in need of a helping hand.

“Millions of dollars have been put in for anyone looking for care, who desire that care. It’s out there for anyone who needs it and is looking for it,” said Dan Senftner, CEO of Visit Rapid City, during a Feb. 20 city council meeting.

City council members will take one more look at the ordinance during a second reading before voting on it on Monday night.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News